Until some months ago, I had three passports – South African, Irish, and Swedish. Each country has its own – very different – system for renewing passports. I live in Sweden, so the process is different from Ireland and South Africa, where I apply through the foreign office.

  • Swedish passports are renewed by the Police Authority at certain police stations. You book a time, go in with your old passport, they take a new photo and thumbprint, and two to four days later your passport is ready to be collected from the police station. Except now after COVID-19 there is chaos. So many people have expired passports that you have to wait up to 8 months for an appointment. After that, there is a longer wait than normal because of the number of applications being processed. Passports expire every five years. So many of my students are unable to travel for work or pleasure at the moment as they have no valid passport.
  • South African passports for people living abroad are renewed via the embassy. They email or post you multiple forms. When I say multiple, I mean multiple. With both my husband and I working on these forms last year it took us 90 minutes at home, and then another 60 minutes at the embassy to complete them all. You have to reapply for citizenship every time you renew your passport and you need to fill everything out by hand in black ink. Then you have to be fingerprinted. It took me 9 months to receive a reply after my previous applications. As my readers know, I only received my national identity card because I lost my South African citizenship after my last application. I am rather glad I never have to go through all the paperwork again
  • Irish passports used to be quite complicated to renew. You received paper forms to fill in, and your photographs and documentation all had to be witnessed, certified and signed by a Commissioner of Oaths. Finding one of those is quite easy in my job, but it was still a faff. Those took about 6 weeks. Luckily, passports expire after 10 years, so by the time I applied this past week, things had advanced WONDERFULLY! You can do it all yourself. You can take your own photograph at home, and there are no forms to fill in. If you don’t want to take your own photograph you can have a digital one taken at a photo centre. Then you have to do is upload a photograph, pay the fee, and post your passport to Dublin. Easy peasy.

Until recently, I was not sure whether I would renew my Irish passport. I don’t really need or use it as I am also an EU citizen via Sweden. If you carry a Swedish passport, you can visit 164 countries without needing a visa. Ireland is 163, and South Africa is 99. But, having lost my South African citizenship, the Irish citizenship is my only connection to my heritage, so it is rather sentimental.

If you want to see how many countries you can visit with your passport/s, click here. US is 163, UK is 162, France is 164.

And on another note entirely, this is my denim Coaban passport/travel wallet. I have used it for a number of years and I love it! It has spaces for everything.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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