Passport Renewal Tips
The cheapest way to get a passport and how to avoid copycat sites
Whether you're getting a passport for the first time, or just renewing an old one, here's the cheapest way to get it, how to get one quicker (processing times can take much longer than normal at the moment), and how to avoid sites charging extra.
Since September 2018, passports have been issued with a maximum validity of 10 years (five years for children). Prior to then, if you renewed before it expired you were allowed to have the time left on your old passport added to your new one, up to a maximum of nine months.
Some countries require you to have at least six months left on your passport, so this means you may have no choice but to renew early. If you don't, you could be refused entry – we've heard one story of a family's four-year-old girl being refused entry to Turkey because she had less than two months left on her passport.
Countries that require at least six months from your date of entry left on your passport include most EU countries (but not all, eg, Republic of Ireland), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, China, Egypt, Fiji, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
In some cases you'll need more than six months if you have a passport issued with more than 10 years validity
Crucially, some European countries only recognise the first ten years of a passport's validity. With those countries, if they also require at least six months' validity, they'll only let you in if your passport is a maximum nine years and six months old on the day you travel. You'd often have validity of more than 10 years if you renewed before your previous validity period ended, where unused months of the old passport were tagged onto the new one.
Check entry requirements carefully
For a full country-by-country list of entry requirements, see Gov.uk. It's worth noting many countries also require visas so check before you travel.
Keep using your burgundy passport until it's due for renewal
The cover of UK passports has returned to blue since leaving the European Union. You DON'T need to get a new passport straightaway though – you'll be able to keep using your current burgundy passport until it's due for renewal. The new blue passports will only be issued when you renew or apply for a new passport.
Passport processing is taking longer than normal, so apply early if going away this year
The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on travel, and the Passport Office is warning that renewing can take up to 10 weeks for both online and postal applications – much longer than the usual three weeks. Apply now if you're hoping to go away in the next few months.
If you need a passport urgently, you'll need to book an appointment at a passport office and pay online. Alternatively, call the Passport Office on 0300 222 0000 to book an appointment and pay.
The only site you'll ever need to go to is the Gov.uk website. It has options for getting your first passport, renewing an old one or getting one for your child.
You can apply online, or by paper at the Post Office (although this is slightly more expensive if applying using the regular service).
Below are the costs and how long it normally takes. As we've said above, the Passport Office is warning it's taking longer than normal to process applications – in some cases up to 10 weeks.
- Adult (normally three weeks) – £75.50 online (£85.50 for the jumbo 50-page passport) or £85 by paper (£95 for the 50-pager).
- Adult 'Fast-track' (normally one week) – £142 (£152 for the jumbo 50-page passport).
- Adult 'Premium service' (normally one day) – £177 for the one-day premium service (£187 for the 50-pager).
- Child (normally three weeks) – £49 online (£59 for the jumbo 50-page passport) or £58.50 by paper (£68.50 for the 50-pager).
- Child 'Fast-track' (normally one week) – £122 (£132 for the jumbo 50-page passport). There's no premium one-day service for child passports.
More than 300 people in our shyster sites poll were caught by one of several sites that look like the official Government site for passports, but charge people £20-£100 on top of the official passport fee. Many are just expensive form-filling services, though some also offer a 'checking' service.
If you do need help, the Post Office's Check & Send service ensures you've included the correct documents, that your photos don't breach any of the restrictions and that you've filled in the forms correctly. It'll also send your application by special delivery. It costs £16 on top of the passport fee.
It's very difficult getting a refund, but it's not impossible
The sad thing is that these sites are legal. They're offering a service, some similar to the Post Office's Check & Send, it's just that they're charging up to 10 times more for it.
Saying that, if you or someone you know has been caught, it's well worth writing to the shyster site (speed is of the essence so emailing is probably best), saying that they want to cancel their contract and get a refund. Beware calling their expensive phone lines though – they typically charge £1.50/min. We've written a template letter to help. Please let us know how you get on.
You can also report the incident to the Competition and Markets Authority or Trading Standards by calling the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0345 404 0506.
MoneySaver ShinyDoc managed to get a refund: "I renewed two passports using this service [a shyster site]! But I noticed almost immediately and asked for a full refund, which I received about 24 hours later. The full amount was credited back to the account I supplied."
See our Shyster Sites guide for more information about how to go about getting a refund if you've been misled by passport sites, ESTA sites, GHIC/EHIC sites and more.
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