Going on holiday should be a relaxing experience. But if the last few months are anything to go by, attempting to travel beyond UK borders could raise stress levels more than the most demanding day at work.
If flight cancellations and long airport queues weren’t enough to contend with, now thousands of people face the prospect of not even being able to reach check-in gates due to lengthy delays for passport applications.
A combination of staff shortages and a surge in post-Covid travel are to blame. And the situation is not set to improve any time soon…
Her Majesty’s Passport Office estimates 9.5 million people will make applications this summer. So, if you want to get ahead of the game and make sure your passport is secured long before take-off, here are a few considerations to take on board.
Give yourself plenty of time
To cope with the influx, HMPO has increased the advised time for making applications to 10 weeks. Most countries require at least six months on a passport and two full pages. So if you’ve almost filled your passport (something happening much faster now due to Brexit and the necessity to stamp in and out of European countries), or if you have less than nine months remaining, it’s probably worth applying now.
Apply for fast-track service
If 10 weeks is far too long to wait – or you’ve only just discovered your passport is missing – there are options for faster services, but be prepared to pay and make a journey to either Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport or Peterborough.
The ‘1 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. The only snag here is that 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.
The best option – but also the most expensive – is the Online Premium Service, with 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. Photos can be taken on a smartphone and uploaded online, making it a far swifter process.
For both these services, the biggest problem is securing an available appointment. But it’s worth regularly checking the website (gov.uk) as slots are added daily. Just have your documents ready and be prepared to move quickly.
Get a bigger passport
Frequent travellers should consider applying for a 50-page passport. The same process applies but you’ll pay on average £10 more. Great value considering the future hassles you can avoid.
Make sure you have all the correct paperwork
Human error is one of the main reasons so many passport applications are stalled. When filling out forms, double check the correct name spelling and date of birth have been given.
Also, follow guidelines for passport pictures to ensure yours isn’t rejected. According to HMPO, photos from a booth or shop are more likely to be approved than a photo taken on a phone. For more tips, visit gov.uk/photos-for-passport.
If your passport gets stuck in the system
If you’re currently waiting for a processing passport and are worried about timings, contact the Passport Adviceline. The webchat appears to be constantly disabled, but you can send an email and await a reply in 72 hours, or keep calling (and calling) 0300 222 0000. Be prepared though, it is very difficult to get through, so 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 a day before.