TWIN sisters could be denied a vitally important trip of a lifetime after struggling for months to get their passport applications approved.

Ann Smith and Audrey Hughes, who has dementia, were offered the chance to travel on a luxury cruise paid for by Ms Hughes’ daughter, who lives in Australia.

Mrs Hughes was hoping the ‘dream’ holiday to see the Northern Lights would be the chance to spend some ‘quality time’ with her daughter on a last trip before her condition worsens.

But now the pair may be denied the chance to ever travel abroad again because neither of the sisters knows anybody who is acceptable to HM Passport Office as an appropriate counter-signatory.

Ms Smith, who lives in sheltered accommodation with her sister in Blackburn, said: “We can’t get the application approved on the grounds that we don’t know anybody who the Passport Office regard as what they call ‘a person of good standing in society’ .

“We’ve been working on this for three months and have yet to find a solution.

“This trip could be the last time that my sister gets to see her daughter and we may not be able to go because one profession is regarded as making you a better person than another.

“In our view the whole thing is totally discriminatory.

“My sister and I don’t know any lawyers or doctors to verify our identity and it seems insulting that a bus driver or someone who works in a corner shop doesn’t fit the criteria necessary to sign our photos for us.

“How can one person’s occupation be deemed more important than another’s?”

Current regulations surrounding passport applications state that the counter-signatory must have known the applicant for at least two years, be able to identify the person, and also be a person of a good standing in their community.

Applicants may not use family members to identify them and there is a specific list of professions available on the Home Office website where you can find out what job is considered acceptable to be a counter-signatory.

Recognised professions listed on the government website include accountant, pilot, councillor and journalist.

Ms Smith said: “My sister has recently been diagnosed with dementia and this could very well be her last chance to travel.

“We’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity to travel somewhere and visit family. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“We had fantastic plans to spend quality time together at sea, under the Northern Lights.

“Audrey hasn’t seen her daughter in five years and is heartbroken to think that we can’t go.

“The whole thing just seems totally class-ist and it feels like we are being punished for not having any friends who are of a particular social standing.”

Previously, people who found themselves in this position were able to contact their GP to countersign their passports, but due to high demand this is no longer accepted by the Passport Office, as surgeries were inundated with requests. This means for many there are few options when it comes to getting a professional to sign their photograph.

The twins now have a last chance to be granted their passports, as they hope the signature of the manager who works in their sheltered accommodation will be deemed good enough.

Ms Smith said: “We’ve been advised that it will most likely not be approved, but we can only try.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The countersignature is an important part of the passport application process, helping to confirm the identity of the applicant, minimising the risk of identity theft and preventing fraud. 

“A list of recognised professions for countersignatories is published on the GOV website but this is not exhaustive.

“ HM Passport Office will always support applicants to satisfactorily confirm their identity. Support can be obtained by calling our Adviceline on 0300 222 0000.”