I thought I’d add a quick blog post in english to follow up the text I’ve just written in portuguese, for the benefit of anyone who might be going to the portuguese consulate to conduct any sort of business, but especially for anyone who needs to register their marriage and change the name on their ID Card, maybe in preparation for applying for citizenship or applying for a passport. I guess in the age of Brexit there will be a lot of people having to brave the bureaucracy. Sigh.
First of all, you can only make bookings online on the consulate website and they come available at stupid o’clock at night, so you’ll need to plan this well in advance.
Second, the list of necessary documents the consulate supplies isn’t entirely complete, as I’ve mentioned in my test. For a start, if you’re like us, wanting to register a marriage, you’ll need your other half. In other words, a portuguese woman can’t go along, prove she is married and get her name change processed, she has to bring her estrangeiro husband along and have him sign some stuff at the same time. On top of that, the husband’s birth certificate and the marriage certificate both have to have been issued within the last 6 months. If you have the originals, sorry, but those won’t do, you have to have them reissued. You can do this online without too much effort and at a reasonable cost, and it only takes a few days to arrive, although if, like me, you need to ask for three extra copies because the appointment keeps being rescheduled, you might come under suspicion of identity fraud!
And third, prepare for a slightly tedious day. Although both parents need to be there, it’s best not to bring a child if you can avoid it. In our case, the funcionario got a bit arsey when our thirteen-year-old came, and there aren’t many children with the patience to stick it out for three or four hours in a mouldy building with an all-pervading air of bureaucratic intransigence. What I said in the text is not an exaggeration: we were talking to the manager of the office and staff did keep ambling in without knocking and asking her basically the same question. Their system was down and nobody quite knew what to do about it. They wanted to cancel our appointment and make us come back again but m’wife wasn’t going to put up with that nonsense. There really was a 2014 calendar on the wall and she actually discussed the cases & personal situations of 4 other cases just as chit-chat while we were sitting right in front of her. There were boxes everywhere and the general atmosphere was of complete chaos. It’s no wonder the consulate in London has such a terrible reputation among portuguese emigrants.
I’m not one of nature’s managers, but I could definitely imagine a few changes someone could make to make the whole thing easier for everyone. For a start, just fixing the website to show the correct details of what to bring would save hours a week dealing with wasted appointments of people who don’t have the right things with them. That would make life easier both for the staff and for the vistors. A few signposts, a bit of training in procedures, some customer focus, a few hours spent putting the boxes away in a cupboard… it honestly wouldn’t take much to turn things around and make it work better for everyone.