All we can say is oops. We missed something.
Gerdine’s passport expires in December 2024. We didn’t think much of it, as that’s a long time away after all – but as we’ve been getting the papers ready for returning to PNG we realised that since you always need 6 months left on a passport to use it for travel we’d only be in PNG for a good 2 years before needing to renew it.
The difficulty is that there is no Dutch embassy in PNG. To renew a passport we’d need to fly in person to Sydney, Australia to make the application and then wait there several weeks before it gets posted from the Netherlands. Sydney is a long way away from PNG! It also sounds like an expensive place to hang out for a few weeks. How long exactly? We don’t know; as long as it takes.
Much better to renew the passport now so that it’ll cover the next term we’ll be in PNG. This called for a visit to the Dutch consulate in London.
We had an intense, stressful weekend getting the paperwork together for renewing Gerdine and Oscar’s Dutch passports, plus getting Alice and Millie their first Dutch passports. The folder of application forms, documents, and copies of documents was around 80 pages thick!
Feeling as well prepared as we could we hop on the train to London for an hour, followed by 20 minutes on the underground. Oscar tells the story of the two trains he went on, the second one being the ‘noisy’ train 🙂 As parents, we had fun hoisting a double pushchair, complete with double babies up and down the stairs of the underground’s Northern line while keeping an eye out for a little boy having fun exploring.
It wasn’t a fun journey, nor was it a fun 2 hours sitting in the consulate bouncing babies on my knee while Gerdine showed document after document to the harried official. 4 passports at once was quite a task, and we feel bad for the 4 families in the queue behind us!
Glad we spotted it, but there’s still likely to be a delay
Gerdine’s shiny new passport will be with us soon enough, but the problem is that her (valid) entry permit is in her old passport. We have a decision to make. In the past it’s been OK to travel with a new passport, displaying the entry permit in your old passport. In these days of pandemic travel, we’re not willing to risk it. What’s required to enter different countries is constantly (sometimes daily) changing and the staff at airline check-in desks can’t keep up and seem to quite happily deny boarding when they’re not sure.
We want our paperwork to be immaculate and not to risk the (small) chance that some staff member at a check-in desk somewhere takes issue and turns us around.
Maybe we’re being overly cautious, but we’re dreading the long journey to PNG with 2 infants and a toddler. It’s already a tough thing to do; getting turned around halfway would become a nightmare.
So that means applying for a new entry permit as soon as we get the new passport. This can take 6-8 weeks. Only then can we apply for the permission we need to enter PNG (covid regulations) and buy our tickets.
Brexit doesn’t help either
Now the UK is no longer part of the EU (facepalm) I’m only allowed to be in the Netherlands for 90 days at a time, and I also require a number of things which includes travel insurance and a booked return or onward journey. We’re not going to have our PNG ticket ready yet, so we have to think about what we’re going to do for that to meet Netherlands short-term stay requirements.
Oh, we also found out that our journey needs to start in the UK to qualify for the insurance that we need to travel to PNG (we’re required to have medical evacuation insurance in case we need to be medevaced to Australia in an emergency).
That’s lots of balls up in the air! In fact, I had to make a flow chart to keep track of everything 🙂
The current plan
The rent on our flat ends at the beginning of December. The plan is currently to move out, go to the Netherlands for Gerdine’s brother’s wedding, and spend Christmas there.
There’s suddenly quite a lot of uncertainty as we’ll have to leave for the Netherlands long before our PNG plans can be finalised and a condition of entry to the Netherlands is having a return or onward journey booked.
Right now we’re trying to figure out if we’ll be able to travel on to PNG from the Netherlands, or if we’ll have to return to the UK and then fly on.
With so much unknown it’s easier in some ways to just book a return trip to the UK rather than risking overstaying a visa…. but we won’t have somewhere to live in the UK anymore…..my head hurts trying to keep track of all these things.
All I can say is oops, silly mistake, but hopefully it won’t cost us too much in time and money.
In the meantime please pray we’d walk closely with the Lord through this. As plans get torn down, remade, and adjusted it’s easy to feel stressed, lose our peace and get a little snappy with our little ones.