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Press Card drill

FOR THOSE of you who've recently joined London Freelance Branch and want to apply for an NUJ Press Card, the procedure is as follows.

A Press Card; Matt Salusbury

The author's press card, membership number omitted to pevent identity theft

Once you've got a membership number, you can apply for a UK Press Card online (only) via www.nuj.org.uk/login/?destination=/forms/presscardwithevidence/. Have your membership number ready. You need this to log in, and your NUJ password. There's a phone number to ring on the log in page if you've forgotten your password or don't yet have one. (It's the NUJ Membership Department.)

You'll be asked to provide evidence of having been paid for journalism work: scanned invoices will do. You may be asked for evidence that you actually need a Press Card. You should have a recent portrait photo of yourself, digitised, ready to upload.

Press Cards exist to identify you as a news-gatherer, especially to police at cordons. If you're never going to be out of the office and out and about gathering news - no Press Card for you. If designing pages is all you ever do at work, or you're exclusively a lecturer in journalism, you are not eligibile for a Press Card. Members who obtain Press Cards they don't really need just make life harder for journalists who are really on the front line.

The only way to get an NUJ Press Card is now via the form on the NUJ's website (link above). London Freelance Branch can no longer have a word with the NUJ Head Office to get the process speeded up, nor will turning up in person at Headland House do you any good.

The decision to issue a Press Card is now out of our hands - the NUJ is just a gatekeeper to the Press Card Authority Press Card scheme. Do not, repeat not, ring the Freelance editors when they're at work and ask them how to get a Press Card. It will just piss them off and won't get you a Press Card either.

It will take at least a couple of weeks from application to get your Press Card by post.

Members should not rely on getting a reminder from the NUJ when their Press Card is about to expire. It's up to you to keep an eye on the date on your Press Card and apply in plenty of time to renew it. (Use the same form to renew.)

You have the option of uploading a new photo when renewing. This is a good idea if you no longer look the same as the twentysomething who joined the NUJ all those years ago. A photo of your much younger self on your Press Card may give you a hard time with the Israeli Defense Force on the Allenby Bridge one day soon.

And yes, coppers will turn you away from the cordon they're guarding if you have a Press Card but it has expired. We've heard numerous reports of this.

With your Press Card comes a PIN number, which you need to remember. This is your identifier, which the police on the cordon can phone through to the Press Card Authority's verification hot line (the number's on the back of the Card) to check you are who you say you are. Cases of coppers claiming your Prss Card "may have been stolen" are thankfully rarer than previously: but if you hear this accusation from a police officer contact NUJ Legal Services immediately.

The NUJ's main Press Card applications page www.nuj.org.uk/join/presscards/ also has a link to apply for an International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) International Press Card, a good idea if you're ever planning to do any work abroad. Much of the above advice applies to their application procedure too. It's suddenly become more worthwhile applying for IFJ International Press Card, as holders are entitled to the newly-launched insurance cover for "hostile regions.".

Many members have a photo of their NUJ Press Pass on the Twitter profile: this is a neat way of showing your professionalism but if you do so, make sure you've obscured your membership number first to prevent identity theft.