Getting a passport in the UK is a fairly complicated process and in addition to all the form filling that you have to do – you will also need a countersignatory who will attest to your identity. Unfortunately, government guidance isn’t overly clear about who can sign and who can’t. This can leave you wondering whether a firefighter’s signature is acceptable on your passport?
Firefighter are approved to sign passports in the UK. While the guidelines are a little vague about the suitability of individuals to countersign for passport applications – fire service workers are specifically mentioned in the example list of professions that can sign.
We will discuss some of the details related to getting a passport in the UK, including when you need a countersignatory, who can sign and what the process entails.
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Table of Contents
- How To Get A Passport For The UK
- Passport Signature Rules For The UK
- Related Articles
How To Get A Passport For The UK
Holding a UK passport is an important step if you want to see the world. Though, until the UK completes Brexit – you do not need a passport to travel throughout the United Kingdom and the European Union; any form of ID will do.
This will, probably, change following Brexit when you will need a passport to visit EU member states that are not part of the UK (that’s England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and it’s possible that in order for the border controls with Ireland to function effectively that you might need a passport in Northern Ireland too at this point.
But what are the rules for applying for a British passport?
Well, these are quite complicated, but they boil down to:
- You need a fully completed passport application form (this can be downloaded online or you can visit a Post Office to collect one) – you need to pay very close attention to this form, it is complicated and it’s easy to make a mistake if you don’t follow the instruction document that comes with it. A mistake will lead to your application being rejected and you may have to pay to start the process again.
- You will need some photographs of you which must meet the current standards laid out on the application form instructions (this specifies the size of the images, that you must use a white background and how to pose). Again, if your photos don’t meet the standards – your application will be rejected. You must also get these photos countersigned (which is the subject of this article).
- If this is your first passport, you will also need to provide proof of British citizenship (such as a Birth Certificate, adoption papers, naturalization documents, etc.) to demonstrate that you qualify for a passport. If you already hold a passport – your previous passport is enough, you don’t need to provide any additional documentation unless your passport has been stolen.
Passport Signature Rules For The UK
OK assuming you’ve come this far – you’ll need to know the rules that govern countersignatories for passport applications. You can always find the latest version of these rules on the British Government website.
When You Need A Countersignatory For Your UK Passport
You will need a countersignatory when you need:
- A first passport (whether it be for an adult or a child)
- A replacement passport (be it damaged, lost or stolen)
- A renewal of passport (for children under the age of 11 and when your appearance has changed sufficiently that you are not clearly identifiable from your previous passport’s photo)
While this may sound like there are times that you won’t need a countersignatory, in practice, we’ve never found this to be the case and you will need one whenever you renew a passport.
You must get the countersignatory to sign both of the photos that you will include with the application and the application form itself. They must also write a statement (as given on the application form) on the back of one of the photos.
Who Can Act As A Countersignatory?
Now, we enter somewhat murkier waters. The government has a clear idea about who can sign your form and photos but it’s not very clear about explaining them.
It says that the countersignatory must:
- Has known you for a period of not less than 2 years.
- Be able to identify you. (Bizarrely, this means they need to be a friend, neighbor or colleague and cannot be a more formal acquaintance, we’re not sure why a fellow professional won’t do, but they won’t).
- Be in good standing with their community or work in a “recognized profession”
It is this list of recognized professions which specifies that a “fire service official” whether current or retired is a suitable cosignatory for your passport application.
In addition, the countersignatory must not:
- Be related to you (this means by either birth or marriage)
- Be in any form of relationship with you or share the same address as you do
- Work for Her Majesty’s Passport Office
If you are applying for a passport from within the UK, the countersignatory must:
- Also currently live and reside in the United Kingdom
- Hold either a British or an Irish passport
If you’re applying for your passport from outside of the UK, then your countersignatory must:
- Hold a current passport from the UK, Ireland, the EU, the United States or any other Commonwealth country (such as Australia, Canada, Nigeria, etc.)
- If they hold a passport which is not from the UK or Ireland – you have to take a color copy of the front page of their passport which must be the photo page of their passport and send that with your application
- If your countersignatory is from the UK or Ireland – it will ensure that you get faster processing of your passport
This means that it’s quite important to pick the right person to act as a countersignatory because otherwise, your passport application may be rejected.
What Is It That A Countersignatory Must Do With The Application Form?
Whether your countersignatory is a firefighter or someone from another accepted profession, they are required to go through your form and check that you have provided the correct details.
Given that the form is a complicated beast and it’s very easy to make mistakes when completing it – this is a very handy double-check that prevents you from sending in the form with errors on it. They will reject a form with errors, and this can either slow down the process or mean that you have to start again and pay again too.
Once, the countersignatory is happy that your details are all correct. They need to sign the space allocated for their signature on the form.
Their signature is their attestation that:
- They’ve been familiar with you for a period of at least 2 years
- That they believe you are who you say you are on the form
- That they believe you’ve been truthful and included all the relevant information on your passport application
They must also provide their own passport number on the form. Don’t forget that you need a color copy of their passport front page if you are applying outside of the UK and they do not hold either a British or Irish passport.
What Is It That A Countersignatory Must Do With The Passport Photos?
The countersignatory is expected to write a statement on the back of one photo only – you should check the passport office’s website and/or the application instructions for the exact wording of this statement.
However, at the time of going to press – the statement from the countersignatory should read:
- “I certify that this a true likeness of [title and full name of adult or child who is getting the passport]”
Once they’ve made this statement they must add:
- Their signature
- The date that they signed the photo
Please note: the passport applicant is not expected to sign or date the photos and should not as this may invalidate your passport application.
Both the applicant and the countersignatory should be aware – it’s a criminal offence to make a false declaration on the form or the photographs of a passport application.
Countersignatories Should Know
It is possible that Her Majesty’s Passport Office will try to contact you to discuss your signature and any details of the application. If you are not available to speak to the folks at the Passport Office when they call – this can result in a delay of the passport application.
Can firefighters sign passports (UK)? Yes, not only can firefighters act as a countersignatory for the UK passport application, they are encouraged to do so by being named specifically as an accepted profession in the government guidance.
Just make sure to follow the rules carefully when completing your declaration as a false declaration can get you and the applicant into serious trouble.