Darlington couple's frustration at passport hold-up

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter (Darlington)

A DARLINGTON man has told of his frustration at delays issuing a passport for his wife, a naturalised British citizen.

Melvyn Hewison married his wife, Cambodian-born Samik, in 2007.

She has been learning English since then and became a British citizen last year, attending a ceremony at Darlington town hall.

Despite this, the couple have not been able to secure a British passport for 40-year-old Mrs Hewison, who works as a cleaner at a town centre office block.

Mr Hewison, 55, of Craig Street, said: “My wife had to attend an appointment at the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in November, so she could be issued with her first British passport.

“My wife has been learning English for about six years and satisfied the UK Border Agency language requirements to obtain citizenship.

“She was a Cambodian citizen, speaking Khmer as her first language.

“During the interview she was asked what documents she submitted.

“She didn't understand the term ‘submitted’ and the question was re-phrased.

“The interviewing officer decided my wife couldn't understand the questions and terminated the interview so an interpreter could be arranged.

“My wife had understood all of the other questions put to her and had answered them fully.

“As a non-native English speaker, her vocabulary has improved over the years, but more obscure words may still cause confusion.”

Since that meeting, delays in finding an interpreter have led to the couple being told they face an indefinite wait for a passport.

Complaints to the IPS has failed to resolve the issue and Mr Hewison has contacted Darlington MP Jenny Chapman about the couple’s plight.

Mr Hewison said: “My wife looked after and nursed my mother during the last 18 months of her life.

“She is working, she pays National Insurance like everyone else.

“It is so frustrating.”

Mr Hewison said he has been told that a temporary passport could be issued, but that the couple cannot make travel arrangements until the situation is resolved.

A spokeswoman for the IPS, part of the Home Office, said she was unable to comment on individual cases.

She added that, for first-time adult passport applications, the IPS often asks for extra information to verify the identity of the applicant.

The six-to-eight-week waiting period is not a guarantee of how long the process will take, she said.

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