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10,000+ passport applications took over 12 weeks during coronavirus lockdown

10,000+ passport applications took over 12 weeks during coronavirus lockdown

More than 10,000 standard passport applications took over 12 weeks to process during the height of the coronavirus lockdown, new data obtained by MoneySavingExpert.com shows.

In late March, the Passport Office began warning on its website that it was taking longer than the usual three weeks to process applications, because of "changed working practices designed to keep both staff and customers safe".

New data obtained by MoneySavingExpert.com via a Freedom of Information request shows that between 24 March and 9 July 2020, 5,706 standard adult applications and 5,922 child applications took more than 12 weeks to process.

And some delays have caused holidaymakers to rethink their plans.

Now the Passport Office is warning that it will take up to six weeks to renew or replace a passport online. But since 24 July 2020, it's said that holidaymakers who are due to travel within the next fortnight and have outstanding passport applications can get their new passport fast-tracked to them within five working days if they're hit by delays.

The Government generally warns that you shouldn't book travel unless you have a valid passport.

See Coronavirus Travel Rights for info on holiday refunds, travel insurance cover and more.

What does the data show?

We asked the Passport Office how many adult and child standard passport applications were taking longer than the usual three weeks to process.

The data we were given is shown below (for the period 24 March to 9 July 2020):

Type of application Number of applications exceeding three weeks Number of applications exceeding six weeks Number of applications exceeding 12 weeks
Adult 134,558 58,913 5,706
Child 132,752 55,855 5,922 

'I waited 13 weeks and had to pay £200 to move my holiday'

In June, we were contacted by dozens of MoneySavers who were worried their passports would not arrive in time for holidays later in summer.

One MoneySaver, Tracy, from Lincolnshire, told us that she moved a holiday as a result of a 13-week wait for her passport to arrive, costing her £200.

Here are what some travellers had to say at the time on social media:

Holiday booked? Here's how to speed up your application

When we contacted the Passport Office about this story, it pointed us towards its new fast-track service. 

The Passport Office says that if you're in the UK, due to travel within the next fortnight, and it has had your application for longer than four weeks, you should ring it on 0300 222 0000 to discuss your situation and request your application be fast-tracked.

It may be worth having documents, such as your flight and hotel-booking confirmation ready, in case you need to prove that you're travelling soon.

If you're outside the UK and need to travel urgently, you'll need to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for an 'emergency travel document'. You won't be able to use the normal passport service.

But people should not book travel until they have received their new or renewed passport.