For a UK application, calling the passport office has not helped. Can I use a software engineer/developer or programmer for this? What is the situation regarding required qualifications as so many are self taught?
I would suggest not. The mention of an engineer is a Chartered engineer. In many industries you need to have passed exams with an accreditation body (e.g. civil engineering etc) before you can call yourself an engineer. This then attests to the person's good character as a countersign for a passport, as they have (like teachers, judges, police etc) something to lose by being caught signing falsely.
see here on wikipedia:
A Chartered professional is a person who has gained a remarkable level of competence in a particular field of work and as such has been awarded a formal credential by an organization in recognition. It is considered a status of professional competency, and the Chartered status is awarded mainly by professional bodies viz. Bar Council etc. and learned societies. Common in Britain and in the Commonwealth it has been adapted by organizations around the world
In software, just about every programmer calls themselves an engineer, it doesn't have the same meaning and won't be accepted.
Yes, in certain circumstances. The UK government publishes a list of qualifying countersignatories, and among those are
- engineer - with professional qualifications
- member, associate or fellow of a professional body
So someone (like me) who has the letters MBCS after his name is qualified. However, a software engineer isn't qualified simply by being in the computer industry: he has to be officially recognised -- which is where professional qualifications like MCP or membership of a professional body comes in. The latter usually awards official post-nominal letters, and many use something like "MCP" similarly.
MBCS is Member of the British Computer Society, the Chartered Institution for IT professionals. MCP is Microsoft Certified Professional, and is a proprietary (but industry-recognised) qualification. The Passport Office are OK with MBCS; I don't know of any MCPs who have countersigned applications.