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Travellers warned of 10-week passport renewal wait - so apply NOW if hoping to go away this summer

Travellers warned of 10-week passport renewal wait - so apply NOW if hoping to go away this summer

Hopeful holidaymakers who need to apply for a new or renewed passport have been urged to do it as soon as possible, after the Passport Office warned applications may take 10 weeks to process, instead of the usual three if you apply online.

It comes amid fears of a surge in passport applications when overseas travel resumes, particularly as there was as a sharp drop in the number of applications processed last year. There were just four million passport applications in 2020, down from seven million in 2019, suggesting a higher-than-usual number may be overdue for renewal. The Passport Office says it's sending text reminders to those whose passports are due to expire.

This is even more important this summer as Brits planning to visit Europe may now need to renew passports earlier than previously as a result of Brexit. In some cases you may need to renew if your passport's more than nine years and six months old on the day you travel. 

Currently, overseas holidays are banned for many in the UK due to tough lockdown restrictions. These could be relaxed from 17 May, for those in England at least, but this is yet to be confirmed by the Government, is still subject to review and may only apply to some destinations. See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for full info.

How to apply for a new or renewed passport

If you need to apply for a new passport, or renew an existing one, you've two options:

  • You can renew or apply online, which costs £75.50. You can do so by filling in an online form on Gov.uk.

  • You can renew or apply by post, which costs £85. To do this, you'll need to get a paper application form from either a Post Office that offers the 'Passport Check and Send' service, or by calling the passport advice line on 0300 222 0000. 

According to the Home Office, the warning about 10-week waits applies to both online and postal applications - so in theory, if you apply in mid-April, you may not get your new or renewed passport through until late June. The Passport Office says applying online is usually quicker than by post and it also says that online applications coming through at the moment are still being processed within three weeks, but it's expected to take longer soon as the rate of applications increases. 

However you apply, you'll be sent one of the new blue UK passports. Be aware you can't now transfer any unused months on an existing passport over to your new one - until September 2018, you could transfer up to a maximum of nine months. See our Passport Renewal Tips guide for further info. 

Can't wait 10 weeks? What to try

If you've travel booked within the next 10 weeks and need to get your passport sooner, here's what you can try:

  • Check if you can get your application fast-tracked - though the official fast-track service is still closed. If you've travel booked, it's worth calling the passport helpline on 0300 222 0000 to find out if it can fast-track your application - though this is separate to the premium and fast-track passport services offered before the pandemic, which are still closed.

    This urgent passport service doesn't cost extra, but it's only for those who need to:

    - Travel for compassionate reasons - say you or someone you care for needs urgent medical treatment in another country or a family member or friend in another country is seriously ill or has died.
    - Travel urgently for work - say you work for an airline or for the armed forces or the police.
    - Prove their identity, for example if you’re applying for a job, mortgage or benefits.

  • Try contacting your holiday provider to explain the situation and see if it'll let you move your trip. It's possible some travel firms, airlines or hotels may let you move your booking to show 'forbearance' in certain circumstances, though they're not obliged to. Of course, if travel restrictions are still in place when you're due to travel anyway, then you should still be able to get a refund or claim on your insurance in the usual way. 

  • As a last resort, consider cancelling the trip. If you've only paid a small deposit for a trip and can't get a valid passport, it may be worth cancelling the trip and not paying the remaining balance, if you're not confident you'll be able to get your passport renewed on time. This will mean losing the deposit you've already paid though, so you'll need to weigh up the risk. 

More countries now require extra validity on your passport - check how long is left on yours

If you want to travel outside of the UK your passport is an essential document. Without it, or with an expired passport, you will not be able to enter a foreign country.

Remember too that some countries, including most European countries now that the UK has left the European Union, require you to have six months' validity remaining on your passport when you enter the country.

What's more, if you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date making it last longer than 10 years. But crucially some European countries don't count these extra months towards the six months' validity needed. So to be safe, you may need to renew if your passport's older than nine years and six months on the day you travel. 

As the traveller it is your responsibility to ensure you have all your documentation in order before you travel. For more info see our Passport Renewal guide. 

What does the Passport Office say?

Director general of Her Majesty’s Passport Office Abi Tierney said: “If you have delayed renewing your passport or are applying for the first time, please apply now so you can receive it in good time. This new advice will help to ensure that we continue to meet the travel plans of our customers during any period of the very highest passport demand.”  

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