I am lucky that I work close to the High Commission (HC). Some guy I met there had flown in from one of the neighbouring cities to drop off one of his documents (I donâ€™t blame him; you donâ€™t want to lose these important documents and have to go through the trouble of getting them again).
The process to get a Nigerian passport is now online (great!) and the process to complete the application goes quite smoothly. Payment is by credit card using the Google Checkout process and I personally found the system worked well. You pay the Nigerian government (I think?) and then you bring more money for the HC’s adminstrative fees.
On the HC website, there is a checklist that tells you the items you need, depending on whether youâ€™re applying for a passport or a visa, and also depending on the sort of passport youâ€™re applying for. I printed a copy of the checklist and used it to make sure I had all the required documents.
(On the checklist it says you need to provide the HC with two self addressed, envelopes. Each one costs $7.65, so I bought one and was going to ask why they need two (remember: I’m cheap). Shebi they just need one envelope to mail my passport to me? And why canâ€™t this cost be included in the administrative fees they charge me?)
When I showed up at the HC, the receptionist asked me if I had everything on the checklist. I told her yes and she took the items and started going through them. She then asked me if I had a copy of the checklist. I said I didnâ€™t (I had written all over the one I had printed out) and she said â€œWell, how am I supposed to know if you have all the required documents? You need a checklist.â€ (In my head I’m thinking This is your job, this is a standard passport application, shouldn’t you know or have written down the required items?)
My response was to ask her if they had copies of the checklists at the office. She said no. I reluctantly brought out my messed up checklist, thanking God that I had brought it with me. Nowhere on their website does it say you need to have this checklist with you.
(Advice to the HC – have copies of these checklists printed up at your office so you can easily use them, or as the #1 item on the checklist, indicate that applicants have to bring a copy of the checklist with them.)
As she went through my the checklist, she noted that I hadnâ€™t brought my completed online application form. I told her that there is no opportunity during the process to print this, and all you can print is the acknowledgement form. She said I was wrong, to go home and try again.
(Advice to the HC -if you’re going to tell the applicant they’re wrong, please be able to show them a copy of the form they are missing, and furthermore, be able to explain to them how they can print this form from the internet.)
There was another item that I didnâ€™t have, the proof of payment. Ok, thatâ€™s a lie: I had a sheet that says “Nigeria Immigration Service” at the top and â€œYour payment process was successful! Please print your acknowledgement and receipt slipâ€ at the bottom, but that was the wrong sheet. She said I should go home and try printing it again. I wasnâ€™t actually mad about this second form sha: she had a sample copy of the sheet in front of her so I knew I must have the wrong sheet.
Oh, remember the envelope? I asked her why I needed two and she said that after I drop off my documents, they will mail me another form that I need to complete, then drop off or mail back to them, then they will send me my passport. That explained the need for two envelopes, so that was that.
When I got home, I was able to print the second sheet but not a copy of the application form. I very carefully organized my documents, this time numbering each with a sticky note, from 1 to 8, so that she could verify with me that everything was there. And I got a second envelope and addressed it as required.
She commended me on this and said it â€œcouldnâ€™t have been betterâ€. I was proud, I’m not going to lie.
But then we got to attachment number 3, the application form. It wasnâ€™t there; I had the same form from the day before. â€œSorryâ€, she said, â€œtheyâ€™re not going to let you do it.â€ I told her to please take me to a computer with internet access so I could show her that I canâ€™t print a copy of my application form. I canâ€™t even see a copy of my application form, just the acknowledgement form that I had printed. She called someone to come down and help me.
Another employee showed up and the receptionist told him what was going on, that I was missing item 3. He flipped through my documents, asked me three times if I live in the city (yes), then as I tried to explain to him that I need a computer, he ignored me and flipped to the photocopy of my fatherâ€™s passport and asked if that picture (of a male) was my father. I said yes and went back to explaining that I canâ€™t print the form. He wasnâ€™t listening. He got to the picture of my mother and asked me if she was my mother. I said yes. He asked again if I live in the city. Finally he looked back at me and I told him that I need to know what I should do about this missing item number 3. He said â€œOh, donâ€™t worry about it,â€ then he asked me why I had two envelopes because since I live here I could just wait and they could give me the form to fill out instead of mailing it to me!
I almost screamed because that was $15 wasted (I was dropping off my sisterâ€™s application too).
All in all, I’m sure my frustrations are minor compared to most. And if I get my passport in time I will forget all this back and forth (I have to go back there since my sister’s confirmation had not yet shown up), kia kia. Pray for me!