When you apply for your first British passport as an adult or for a child, you must get the application form and a current photo signed by a suitable person, known as a "countersignatory." The application for a renewal of a passport for a child aged 11 or under, or for the replacement for a lost, damaged or stolen passport, must also be countersigned. Renewals for adult passports do not usually have to be countersigned, unless your appearance has changed to the extent that you can't be easily recognised from your expired or expiring passport. The countersignatory must work in one of a number of recognised professions or be "a person of similar standing," according to the UK Government website gov.uk.
The countersignatory must have known you personally for at least two years. This means, for example, that your GP might be suitable if you have frequently seen them in person. Your MP might not if you have met them infrequently or have never met them in person. The countersignatory must live in the UK and hold a current British or Irish passport. Partners and family members, including family members by marriage, are not allowed to countersign your application. You cannot be involved in a personal relationship with the countersignatory, or live at the same address. Employees of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) are not allowed to be countersignatories.
An acceptable countersignatory can be an MP, a Justice of the Peace, a religious minister, a local councillor, a bank officer, an established civil servant or a police officer, according to gov.uk. Qualified members of recognised professions such as doctors, engineers, lawyers and teachers are also suitable if they meet the other criteria. If the person does not fall into one of these categories, they must be "a person of good standing" in the community, according to gov.uk.
Person of good standing
There is no definitive list of all possible occupations that might be suitable for a countersignatory but the government does provide a list of examples. These include directors of limited companies, airline pilots, professional photographers, social workers, charity managers and qualified travel agents. The term "person of good standing" is subjective but in general the countersignatory must have qualifications and credentials that are able to be verified. According to gov.uk, they should be someone "it is believed will not risk a career or reputation by knowingly making an untrue statement in completing the countersigning section of an application form."
Countersigning for children
The application for a first child passport or the renewal of a passport for a child aged 11 or under has to be countersigned. Renewals for children aged between 12 to 15 do not usually have to be unless their appearance has changed beyond that of natural growth. Replacements for lost, stolen or damaged passport also have to be countersigned, whatever the age of the child. All the same criteria apply but the countersignatory must personally know the parent or legal guardian who signs the application on behalf of a person under 16. A person who only knows the child, such as a teacher who does not personally know the child's parents, cannot act as a countersignatory.