As travel restrictions imposed at the height of the pandemic have eased, more people are considering trips abroad this summer. And this surge in post-Covid holidays has placed a huge demand on the UK’s passport service.
Her Majesty’s Passport Office estimates it will receive 9.5 million applications this summer. Coupled with staff shortages, this workload threatens to create delays for anyone requesting new documents.
However, there are several measures travellers can take to make sure they have the best chance of securing their passport as quickly as possible. Read on below to find out more…
Allow plenty of time
Her Majesty’s Passport Office has increased the period it advises people to allow for making applications to 10 weeks, in a bid to manage the deluge. It is important to remember that most countries require at least six months’ validity to be left on a passport and two full pages.
It is probably worth applying if you’ve nearly filled your passport, something happening much faster now due to Brexit and the necessity to stamp in and out of European countries. Likewise, it is a good idea to apply if you have less than nine months remaining
Apply for a fast-track service
If you’ve discovered at the last minute that your passport has gone astray, or 10 weeks is too long to wait, then faster services are on offer. But these will cost more, and a journey to Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport or Peterborough may be necessary.
The ‘One Week Fast Track’ service is available to adults renewing or replacing a passport, and for children requesting their first passport. For first-time adult passports, the only option is to use the 10-week ‘non-urgent’ service.
A standard 34-page passport costs £142 for an adult and £122 for a child – compared to £75.50 and £49. Applications must be made on a paper form available from the Post Office; you can then make a face-to-face appointment for a passport interview, available up to three weeks in advance.
Meanwhile, the Online Premium Service involves 30-minute face-to-face appointments up to two days after an online application is made. This is only available to adults renewing or replacing a passport issued after December 31, 2001, and costs from £177, making it the most expensive option; photos can be taken on a smartphone and uploaded online.
For both of these services, the biggest issue is securing an available appointment. Slots are added daily on the Government website – have your documents ready and be prepared to move quickly.
Get a bigger passport
People who travel frequently should think about sending off for a 50-page passport. This will cost £10 more on average.
Make sure you have all the correct paperwork
One of the main reasons passport applications get held up is human error. Double-check the spelling of names and that the correct date of birth has been given when filling out forms.
Passport photos need to meet certain criteria too. HMPO says that photos from a booth, or a shop, are more likely to be approved than a picture taken on a phone. Visit gov.uk/photos-for-passport for more advice on how to take a suitable photo.
What to do if your passport gets stuck in the system
Contact the Passport Adviceline if you’re waiting for a passport that is being processed and have begun to worry. Call 0300 222 0000, or email and await a reply in 72 hours – the webchat service is often busy.
Allow as much time as possible before your holiday. A passport mislaid in the system can be fast-tracked two weeks before a flight, but not 24 hours before.