Over 500,000 passports are currently stuck in a queue, waiting to be processed, as the Passport Office struggles to keep up with demand.
And that, inevitably, means many hundreds of families wondering if they’ll ever get their passports back in time for their summer holiday.
What’s gone wrong?
The official line is that there’s been an ‘upsurge’ in the number of passport requests being made. Over 3.3 million applications were made in the first half of this year – and that’s apparently 350,000 more than the same period last year.
The government says more people want passports because the economy’s recovering and a greater number of people now feel they can afford to go travelling.
However, the Public Services Union claims that job cuts and office closures have also contributed to the backlog.
So, what should I do if I’m waiting for passports?
You could call the Passport Office on 0300 2220000 to find out where your passport is in the queue – but be warned that people are saying the lines are very busy and callers can’t always get the info they’re after.
Home Secretary Theresa May has today announced that people currently overseas who are applying to renew their UK passport will be given a 12-month extension to their existing passport, and if you’re applying from overseas for a passport for your children, you will be given emergency-travel documents.
If you’re UK-based and you’re prepared to pay, you could ask if you can upgrade your application to the 1-day premium service (£128 for a standard adult passport). If that’s possible, you’ll have to book an appointment at one of the Passport Offices in London, Liverpool, Peterborough, Newport, Glasgow, Belfast and Durham. You can find details of the office opening times on the government’s website.
Be warned, though: the premium service is not available for a child’s first-time passport.
Or, for slightly less money, you could pay for the 1-week fast track service: for £103 for a standard adult passport (£87 for a child’s passport), you get your passports delivered to your home 1 week after your application is accepted.
Mrs May also said today that anyone with an “urgent need to travel” would be fast-tracked through the system without having to pay. It’s not clear yet exactly what qualifies as an “urgent need to travel” and whether first-time children’s passports are included in this.
What if I need to renew my passport or get a new one in the next few weeks?
In theory, it should take 3 weeks for a passport renewal, while a new passport can take up to 6 weeks. But the Passport Office is now advising people to ‘allow plenty of time’.
If you’re worried and have the money, you could opt for the premium 1-day service or the 1-week fast-track service (details above).
Can I still go abroad on holiday with a passport that’s nearly date-expired?
If your passport is due to expire during or shortly after the date of your travel and you were about to renew it, you may be wondering what’s the best thing to do. In this case, it’s worth getting clued up about the passport rules for the country you are travelling to as you may still be able to travel.
For countries within the EU, your passport only needs to be valid up until the date of entry into the country you are visiting – although the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises that your passport is valid for the entire duration of your stay.
Many destinations outside the EU, however, require your passport to valid for 6 months after your date of entry. You can check the specific country requirements on the FCO website.