Why are passport delays happening and how can I fast track my application?

Families desperate to travel after two years of coronavirus restrictions are piling pressure on the Passport Office to resolve delays that have left holiday plans in tatters

Boris Johnson is understood to have effectively threatened to privatise the department, which is struggling to manage a backlog of cases, leaving would-be travellers waiting as long as 10 weeks for simple renewals. 

MPs have described the situation as “shambolic” and have called on the Home Office to speedily rectify the situation as millions prepare to holiday abroad for the first time since the pandemic began. 

But what is actually causing the delays and how can you make sure to get your passport application through quickly? 

What is causing passport delays?

The Home Office has said it is dealing with an “unprecedented” influx of applications in the run up to the summer holidays, as families turn their backs on “staycations” favoured during the pandemic and return to annual summer trips to sunnier climes abroad. 

Kevin Foster, parliamentary under secretary for the Home Office said: “During the pandemic period, over five million people delayed applying for a British passport. This has led to unprecedented passport demand. We dealt with a million passport applications last month alone. To put that in context, we usually deal with seven million in a whole year.”

The latest delays come on top of other issues identified earlier in the year. In February the Passport Office’s main courier, TNT, said it was taking longer than usual to get passports back to applicants in the post due to higher than normal demand. 

What are ministers doing to fix it? 

The Home Office has said it has increased output to “unprecedented levels” and that since April 2021 it has introduced a range of contingency measures, “including technical improvements and a bolstering of its resources”. 

The department said it had sent text messages to close to five million people reminding them to renew their documents. It has also said, where there are compelling and compassionate circumstances, such as a funeral, applications can be expedited. 

How can I get a passport quickly? 

There are two ways to speed up a passport application: use the one-week fast-track service or premium online service. 

The fast-track service costs £142 for an adult passport and £122 for a child. It can be used for renewals, changing details such as your name, replacing a lost, damaged or stolen passport or applying for a first passport for a child. 

The fast-track service cannot be accessed online and you must fill in a paper application form, which can be obtained at the Post Office. Confusingly, once you have the paper form you must book an appointment online, to which you will need to bring two passport photos, your form and supporting documents in order for your passport to be approved. 

The online premium service is easier, but costs more – £177. You can only use it to renew adult passports issued after Dec 31 2001. You book an appointment online and must take your old passport, a digital camera or phone that has a camera and ID. 

Applicants can also call up and plead for their case to be expedited if they have particular circumstances, such as needing to go to the funeral of a close relative. 

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