Worried about passport delays due to strikes? Here's what you need to know
More than 1,000 Passport Office workers across the UK will walk out from today (3 April) through to 5 May as part of strike action over pay, pensions, redundancy terms and job security. Below we explain your travel and compensation rights if your passport application or renewal is delayed.
There could be a "significant impact" on the delivery of passports throughout the period of strike action, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents Government and civil service workers, has warned.
The Home Office – the Government department that oversees passport applications – would not confirm whether it expected delays to passport services. It told us it is currently implementing "contingency plans" to ensure passport applications are processed throughout the strike period, though its guidance of a 10-week processing period remains in place.
This states that you should "allow up to 10 weeks from when we receive your old passport, any supporting documents, or confirmation of your identity details if needed". Say you were to complete a passport application from 3 April, having submitted all supporting documents – you could expect to have your new passport by 12 June at the latest.
See our Passport renewal tips for the cheapest way to get a passport (which is online, not by post) and how to avoid copycat sites.
It's not clear whether you'd be due compensation from the Passport Office if you paid extra for a faster service you didn't end up getting
The standard passport application and renewal service does not have a guaranteed turnaround time – so you're not due a refund or compensation if it takes longer than the current 10 weeks.
However, if you paid extra to use the one-week Fast Track service or the one-day Premium service and your application was delayed, you may be due compensation, but only in certain circumstances.
Guidance on the Gov.uk website states that if your passport is delayed due to an error by the Passport Office, which resulted in you missing your trip, you may be due compensation.
The Passport Office wouldn't confirm whether delays due to striking workers would mean travellers would be due compensation, but its official guidance states:
"A straight forward and non-questionable compensation claim is one where it is clear we:
- made an error which has caused the customer extra expense.
- have damaged or lost a customer's document and we must replace it.
"A straight forward non-questionable guaranteed service level fail is one where we:
- clearly failed the service level due to an error, omission or unnecessary delay."
It's important to note that the guidance states compensation is NOT payable where the delay was because additional checks had to be made or where the delay was caused by a third party (for example, where the Passport Office contacted a counter-signatory and they delayed replying).
If you believe you have a valid claim, you can write to the Passport Office following the instructions in its complaints procedure.
If you don't have a valid passport and can't go on your trip, you're unlikely to get a refund from your travel firm
If passport applications are delayed by the strikes and this prevents you from travelling because you don't have a valid passport, unfortunately you're NOT entitled to a refund from travel providers, as they're still offering the services you booked.
Airlines and hotels don't have to give refunds in these circumstances (just like you breaking your arm doesn't mean you've a right to a refund on a tennis racket). However, there may be some exceptions:
- If you were promised the right to cancel and get a refund while booking. For example, if you booked a fully-flexible flight or a cancellable hotel booking. Depending on when you booked, you may be covered by the firm's pandemic-related flexibility policy – check your travel provider's website and your original booking confirmation.
- If not, your booking isn't flexible – though it's still worth contacting your holiday provider to explain the situation to see if it can help. It's possible that some travel firms, airlines or hotels may let you move your trip or offer vouchers to show "forbearance", even though they're not obliged to.
If you're in this position, it's best to take whatever the firm offers, whether it's a change of dates, voucher or credit note, as it's better than what you're entitled to legally (which is nothing).
You're also unlikely to receive your money back through your travel insurance, as most of the big name providers tend to exclude claims for cancellations if you can't travel because you don't have a passport – but it's always worth checking. See our Cheap travel insurance guide for more.
Have six months or less on your passport? Check what the country you're travelling to will accept
Depending on when and where you're travelling to and when your passport is due to run out, you might be able to get away with travelling without actually having to renew your passport.
For example, if you're travelling to somewhere like Gibraltar or the USA, your passport only needs to be valid for the duration of your stay.
For most European countries, it'll need to be valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave. See our Passport renewal guide for our list of 40 common destinations and their passport requirements.
The best way to apply for or renew your passport if you haven't already
You should always allow up to 10 weeks to either apply for a new passport or renew your old one. It costs £82.50 for an adult and £53.50 for a child to renew or apply for a passport online.
Alternatively, if you're in a hurry, the Passport Office continues to offer two urgent services for an extra fee – a one-week Fast Track service, which costs £155 for an adult passport or £126 for a child (including the fee for the passport itself), and a one-day Premium service, which can only be used to renew an adult passport and costs £193.50 (again, including the passport fee).
However, these services are likely to get booked up as soon as they become available. Extra appointments are added each day though, so keep checking the Gov.uk website.
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