A run-in with the Polizei

My passport expired last month. Ever the optimist, I assumed that getting a new one would be a relatively painless process. I went on to the German Irish Embassy website, filled in their little online form, and waited for the documents to appear in my letter box. A week later, I was still waiting. Now I know that the Irish are not exactly known for their efficiency – my good self excluded – but this was definitely taking the Pinkel.

I called up, explained that I’d filled in the form a week before and asked how long it normally took to get the documents.

Siobhán-Schwanhild: It shouldn’t take any longer than three days.

Me: Huh. Can you send them again, please?

The next morning they were in my letter box. They must have hired a German in the meantime.

I had a quick look through the plethora of forms and eventually located the actual form I would need to fill in. Page 1 – fine, page 2 – fine, page 3 – not applicable as I am no spring chicken any more (much as I pretend otherwise), page 4 – crap.

Everyone loves forms, right?
Everyone loves forms, right?

In order to apply for an Irish passport, you have to have your application witnessed by one of the following people:

  • Police officer
  • Member of clergy
  • Medical doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Bank manager/assistant bank manager
  • Elected public representative
  • Notary public/commissioner for oaths
  • Peace commissioner
  • School principal/vice principal
  • Accountant
  • Butcher*
  • Baker*
  • Candle-stick maker*

You have to sign the form in front of this witness, they have to complete a section of it, including a work landline number, then sign and stamp two of the four photos you need to submit – once they’re satisfied that the photos are actually of you, of course. I toyed with the idea of popping over the road, putting on my holy face and asking a priest to do it – maybe I could even fashion a halo out of some toilet rolls and a light bulb – but it felt a bit cheeky after my leavingthecatholicchurchtoavoidpayingstupidtaxes fiasco, so I put that thought out of my head. A-men.

Nice church I'm not paying for
Nice church I’m not paying for

I scanned the list again to see if game designers, artists, writers, starving teachers and bunker association founders had appeared, but alas, they hadn’t. I then racked my brains trying to think of any lawyers, doctors, accountants or bankers I knew. I realised that, at least when it came to the passport application process, I had sadly been mixing in the wrong circles for the past year.

Luckily, there’s a police station across the road from where I work, so armed with all of my documents, photos and ID, I trotted over there. A jolly-looking policeman sat behind a glass screen so I started explaining (in German) what I needed and waving documents around. I obviously didn’t explain very well as he decided he had to come out of his glass box and into the waiting room to fully investigate what it was I was after.

Me: I need ein/einen/eine/einem signature. (Wave, wave) This is my passport, um, I don’t know the word for application – probably should have looked that up. You look at photos. (Wave, wave) You look at me. Is photo me? You are happy? Then you signature. (Wave, wave) 

PC Pharamond Plod: NEIN. 

Me: Bitte?

PC Pharamond Plod: NEIN. The German police do not sign documents.

Me: But, but… look! Photo is me – no problem!

PC Pharamond Plod: NEIN. 

Me: Sigh.

I trudged out, defeated. Then, as I passed the Deutsche Bank on my way to the train station, I had another idea. An ex-student of mine works there – as a bank manager.

When I got home, I sent her an email explaining what I needed. Two days later, she replied to say, “NEIN, German bank managers do not do this”. Double sigh. Eventually, I managed to charm force one of the accountants at the school (who I’d never even met before) into signing it. It had only taken around three weeks longer than expected.

Herr Accountant: You are aware that your passport is very out of date.

Me: Triple sigh.

I marched over to the Irish Embassy, handed everything in, and paid my €85.

Me: You are aware that the German police will not sign documents. Why are they on the form if they are not an option?

Siobhán-Schwanhild: That’s funny. A lot of people have their applications signed by a police officer. 

Me: Beyond sighing.

By the time I reconcile myself with the fact that maybe German police just do not like the look of me, the passport should have arrived.

*Not actually included on the list. Had you fooled though, didn’t I?

You can find ALL the information you need on applying for an Irish passport in Germany here.

76 thoughts on “A run-in with the Polizei”

  1. Egads, what a trial. You poor thing, although I did thoroughly enjoy the humor of it all.
    In America, most of our document witnessing and signing is done by a Notary Public – and nearly every bank has one on hand – whether you bank with that company or not. Handy stuff.
    Wow. I can’t believe I just said something kind about the American bureaucratic system. A rarity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sure a lot of people have been looking more favourably on their own countries since reading this blog!! I think you can get a notary to do it here but you have to pay them. No way I was paying anyone to sign a form for me! Madness.


  2. I did the exact same thing, and had the exact same conversation with Mr Polizei as you (as did another Irish friend in a diff part of Germany) so I think the embassy tell porkies sometimes! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! Yeah, I think there are more of us out there as well. There are internet advice threads dedicated to this very subject! I guess unless you have a friend who’s a cop, they won’t do it.


      1. I think because you can get it signed at home by the Guards, they automatically assume that it’s the same everywhere. At the end of my visit to the Polizei, there were about 6 of them gathered round trying to figure out this strange Irish conundrum…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha ha! God, that must have been hilarious! They’re so nice though – they do actually try to figure out what it is you want 🙂 Before they say NEIN obviously 😉 And it seems the embassy is in no rush to take police officer off the form either 😉


  3. After Indian bureaucracy, applying for something so simple as a Canadian passport – even overseas – is a breeze!

    And yes – that includes the whole witness by a mere fraction of the fraction of professionals out there deemed sufficiently responsible to do the honours of witnessing docs / photos, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the list of those who are to be considered honest, reliable citizens–not teachers forsooth but only school principals (or failing that, a vice principal). Hey, why aren’t university professors on there?!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And lawyers are known the world over for their high moral values 🙂 Don’t even get me started on priests… 😉
      University professors should be on there! I think the UK approved list is different but not sure exactly what the professions are!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I did think about that – teacher/principal – not so far off. But I didn’t have a stamp. The stamp was my downfall 😉 I don’t think it’s as complicated in Ireland. A lot of people send everything to their parents and let them sort it out! I wanted to do it the correct (German) way though 😉

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Haha okay these comments came from heavily intoxicated youth, who, after complaining about the Germans being obsessed with rules, took turns sitting on a narrow window ledge with their legs dangling out so that they could smoke in our non-smoking room.

            I’ll admit I felt a bit ‘German’ watching them.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t get these signing things for passports: when we had our kids Nz passports made we had to come up with a kiwi that had known them from birth and was eg a lawyer. What are the odds to find one in Finland that would join me at the hospital when giving birth.. .? (With at least 15 kiwis in this country… ).

    But now you have 5 years to improve your circle of friends 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 10! I will get working on it immediately! Oh god, that sounds even more complicated! It would be a funny request to call up a legal office with though – Hello, you don’t know me but I’m about to go into labour. I wonder if one of your fellow lawyers would be so good as to join me? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. In my previous one, I looked like a cross between Slash and Noel Gallagher – pre-eyebrow-plucking and a perm. Shudder 😉
      And I don’t even know what a local peace commissioner is, let alone where to find one! Crazy!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. At least in some field Latvia is more progressive. I simple went to the Latvian Embassy in the Hague, filled in the form, they also took my picture and fingerprint and two weeks later I received a phone call that my passport arrived from Riga and I can pick it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Glad you’re legal again, but, my goodness, is this Germany’s way of trying to get rid of foreigners? Too bad you didn’t try the priest. It would have been funny (not) if he too had said, “NEIN!”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. UK ones have an equally ridiculous list. Luckily school teachers are on it so I got Jan’s dad to do it. Next time I’m going to fly to England before my passport runs out and apply for a new one there. It will be much less stressful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think pilots are on the UK list as well? I don’t know any of those either unfortunately! I could have signed it myself if ‘teacher’ was on the list 😉
      They’d have loved that 😉


        1. Yeah, no family members. My uncle’s a priest – every Irish family has one – but he’s in Brazil so no use to me anyway!
          Now we just have to get Jan to marry you and give us all a day out 😉


            1. I haven’t even been here two years so there’s no way I would have been able to do that! I would have had to go home. I think it’s an Irish policeman’s duty. One of the few 😉


  9. Awrh, I remember having to do this in the UK when my passport expired… it had the same list of witness options at the bottom.

    And yes,”In Butchers we trust” – I’ve no idea why it doesn’t appear on German € cent coins – they are the people who make our sausages, after all!

    Liked by 3 people

                1. Ich glaube das 🙂 I’ve been bugging every German I know to explain the difference between ‘echt’ and ‘wirklich’ to me – the answers are funny. I especially like when they all start fighting with each other 🙂

                  Liked by 3 people

  10. Yikes. My American passport is expiring next year. You’ve inspired me to look into just how to renew it from Norway …

    Glad you’re legal again, and of course I enjoyed the story behind the legalities. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s good to look it up in advance – I learned that the hard way! Hopefully it’s not as complicated as the Irish system – I don’t think a lot of countries still require the signature witnessing nonsense. Keep us posted 😉


  11. Passport, schmassport….who needs one, when you have a bar next door and a face like yours 🙂 I don’t know any doctors or bankers or lawyers, but i do know a PhD engineer somewhere in Berlin. Maybe you have one of your former English school principals to help you out?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure a Director of Studies is the same thing as a principal… Didn’t want to risk having it sent back to me! Funny thing is, I look better in these photos than I did ten years ago – I’m like a fine wine. Or maybe I’m actually turning into a glass of wine 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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