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):

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.

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    I will have to find a reference, but in general it refers to someone who is likely going to suffer a long term consequence to their profession or social standing if they falsely or carelessly countersigns an application, as you can see in the non-exhaustive list of recognized professions (public servants, regulated professionals like engineers, people responsible for a larger business or associations like company directors, priests and trade union officials, people recognized with official honours, other professions with particular social standing like teachers and journalists).
    – xngtng
    Oct 10, 2022 at 14:36
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    I have no idea what the legal definition is (maybe ask on Law stackexchange), but the sensible advice to those who want to Travel is to use someone from one of the approved professions. Oct 10, 2022 at 14:39
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    @xngtng that's interesting. I'm more familiar with legal "good character" requirements, which are almost always defined in terms of no disqualifying convictions rather than in terms of positive life accomplishments or elite social standing. Oct 10, 2022 at 15:06
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    @GerardAshton perhaps, but that doesn't really tell me what good standing means. For example, if I submit an application with Lindsay Lohan (a US citizen) as my countersignatory, what sort of procedure would be followed? Actor is not on the list of recognised professions, so the question would then become whether she is in good standing in her community. Does her status as a famous actor mean that she is, or do her frequent run-ins with the law invalidate it? Does it matter if she is currently in rehab or on probation? Will the UK passport official give her a drug test? Oct 10, 2022 at 17:02
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    Related question from a few years back on Politics (which I gave an answer to): Why are only certain professions able to countersign passport photos in the UK? Oct 10, 2022 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


When I was first asked to countersign someone's UK passport application, I carefully read the rules. However, I was neither clearly eligible nor ineligible. So, I called a helpline, chatted for a few minutes with someone friendly and helpful. He judged that I was suitable.

So, if in doubt, do as I did.

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