According to the official UK government website, certain applications for UK passports must be countersigned by a third party.
One of the criteria for being an authorized countersignatory is (link in original):
- be ‘a person of good standing in their community’ or work in (or be retired from) a recognised profession
The list of recognised professions seems clear enough, but the condition appears to be written as an either/or condition. That is, a person who is not a member of a recognised profession can still be a countersignatory as long as they are in "good standing in their community". I'm having a difficult time finding a concise definition of what it means for a person to be or not be in good standing in their community for purposes of countersigning UK passport applications. More specifically, is being in good standing defined negatively as an absence of particularly bad things like serious unspent convictions or current Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO), or is it defined positively as requiring a showing of specific evidence of good standing such as neighbour testimonials or community awards?
I did notice that the recognised profession clause is an objective standard. Whether someone is a qualified solicitor, dentist, or schoolteacher is not a matter of opinion but a factual question that can be definitively answered by looking up the applicable professional registers. Is the "good standing" clause likewise an objective standard that anyone can check anyone else against at any time or does it represent a subjective, whole-person analysis of the person's morals, behaviours, attitudes, literacy, motivation, familiarity with British traditions, standing in local gossip circles, etc. that must be done by someone formally trained or certified in community standing adjudication? If good standing is objective, is there a citation to the definition? If it is subjective, who (e.g. passport official, judge, etc.) adjudicates dubious cases of standing and what rules or administrative guidance are they supposed to follow?
Another way to approach the question is how someone not a member of one of the recognised professions would know if they are allowed to countersign on the basis of being in good standing in their community. Is this something that would be blatantly obvious to the person or would they need to go out and get some sort of formal good standing assessment done on them by some kind of professional (maybe a social worker?)?
A third way to approach the question is whether good standing is something that essentially everyone is born with but that can be defeated by particularly bad conduct (e.g. being placed on a CBO) or whether good community standing is something that must be positively earned or (in classic British tradition) inherited.
Somehow, I suspect that this is another one of those quaint British euphemisms for something that people are expected to "know" but don't want to talk about, but that doesn't help me identify whether it really means something like "decent human being and not a football hooligan or chav or something" or whether it is more intended to mean "rich upper-crust only, working-class riff-raff need not apply".
If being in good standing in one's community is synonymous with holding membership in a recognised profession and the criterion is phrased as an either/or for historical reasons, that's an answer. If the criteria are distinct, either a formal legal definition of good standing or a reference to official adjudication guidelines could answer the question.