UAE expats benefit from UK passport cost cuts but others may not

Published:  2 Apr at 6 PM
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The news of a cut in passport renewal costs is good for UAE expats, but those living elsewhere may not be overjoyed.

The 33 per cent cut in UK passport renewal costs is supposedly due to savings to be made on the cost of processing overseas. In future, all expat passport renewals will be dealt with in the UK.

For UAE-based expats, it’s all good news, with many surprised that government fees are actually going down. Renewals are required every 10 years and, for most expats across the world, the renewal process is still straightforward.

However, for Southeast Asia’s UK expats, it’s bad news as regards time and money. For example, expats living in Thailand, will need to make an appointment with the British Embassy, choosing three dates, one of which will be confirmed.

The application, once made, will be couriered to the UK passport office and the replacement passport will be returned for collection at the embassy. Sadly, for expats living in far-flung northern, northeastern and far southern Thai states, it’s the worst news for a while.

Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kong Kaen, Isaan and the southern Thai islands are as far away from Bangkok as Edinburgh is from London. The embassy’s daily opening hours are difficult to match with available flights, and the alternative is an overnight coach journey considered unsafe by many.

Thousands of British expats in these regions will need to travel to Bangkok, staying overnight twice to submit their applications and collect their new passports. The 33 per cent reduction in the cost is nothing compared with that of two return flights, two nights’ accommodation and taxi fares.

There are no alternatives for expats who, for health reasons, cannot make the trip and, as UK state pensions are frozen in Thailand, the extra costs are a burden. Allowing expats to carry their cancelled passports whilst waiting for the replacements is problematic, as foreigners are legally obliged to always carry a current passport.
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