Passport Office warns of 10-week wait for renewal as demand reaches all-time high ahead of half term and Jubilee weekend
Holidaymakers are being told not to leave passport applications until the last minute amid a growing backlog which could soon leave planned getaways for May half term and the extended Jubilee bank holiday in doubt.
With demand for passports at an all-time high the possible wait time for a renewal now stands at almost three months.
Due to Covid-19 HM Passport Office says it saw a 'significant drop' in the number of people applying for passports in the last two years - with more than five million people estimated to have delayed their applications and allowed documents to expire during 2020 and 2021 as travel restrictions around the globe halted the majority of trips and holidays.
But with travel returning to near-normal levels and countries worldwide scaling back some of their more stringent coronavirus rules, more and more people are now applying for a new passport with the summer months on the horizon.
As a result, travellers are being told to allow 10 weeks for renewing or changing their passport documents - a wait time that has doubled since the start of this month when processing times were between just four and five weeks.
Cancelled flights, problems with ferry services and delays at security are not the only issues to have besieged travellers over the last two weeks of the Easter end of term break.
The extensive passport processing times are already thought to have caused some problems for those with April holiday plans - with a number of people making desperate appeals for help from passport office staff via Twitter over passports that hadn't arrived in time despite an advertised five week wait time when documents were first sent away.
One traveller wrote: "I fly in 8 days and my son's passport sill isn't processed. Sent the application 25th Feb, 5 week turnaround was quoted but it's now been 6.5 weeks" while another pleaded: "@HM_Passport you've had daughter's renewal since Feb, along with her old passport expiring in Aug. You clearly can't cope with demand and are in total disarray. 37 calls cut off today. Can we travel to France at the weekend with a photo of the old passport page?"
While there are urgent services for people who need their passport more quickly, appointment availability is now limited warns HM Passport Office and people are being 'strongly advised' to apply early to ensure future holiday plans can run smoothly.
Director General of HM Passport Office, Abi Tierney, said: "The summer holidays are fast approaching so if you need a new passport, we urge you to apply now."
While the school six-week summer break is still some 14 weeks off, May's half term holiday and extended four-day June bank holiday for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee are just over six weeks away, which could now prove problematic for those planning to use the additional time off to travel abroad.
And while ordinarily the recommended government advice is for those without a valid passport to not book a holiday until they have the required official documentation in date and in their posession, many travellers already have existing bookings as a result of trips booked and paid for that had to be postponed during the pandemic and who are now facing a scenario where family passports have since expired.
Applying online, says HM Passport Offiec, is the cheapest and easiest way to obtain a new passport, which currently costs £75.50 for an adult and £49 for a child.
Paper form versions, which may also take longer to process, are £85 for an adult and £58.50 for children. To learn more click here.