Millions of people are rushing to submit passport applications ahead of the summer holidays, but lengthy processing times mean their plans could be disrupted.
Her Majesty’s Passport Office says it is currently seeing “unprecedented demand” for new passports, as more than 5m people delayed applying for them during the pandemic due to travel restrictions.
It expects around 9.5m British passport applications to be made this year, compared to a 6m usually, and is advising people to allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their passport. That means anyone with a holiday booked for July who submits their passport application now could find that their passport doesn’t arrive in time. The passport turnaround time is normally three weeks.
Even if you already have a passport, make sure you check it carefully so you can be certain it’s valid. Changes brought in by Brexit means that your passport will need to have at least three months left until it expires and be less than 10 years old for you to travel. Even if your passport says it doesn’t expire until 2023, if it’s 10 years or more since it was issued, it won’t be valid.
Will my travel provider or travel insurer pay out if my passport doesn’t turn up in time?
Unfortunately, you’re very unlikely to get a refund from your travel provider if your passport doesn’t arrive in time for your holiday, unless you’ve booked a trip which allows you to cancel and get a refund.
If you can’t cancel, it’s still worth contacting your travel provider to see if there’s anything they can do to help. There’s a chance they might be prepared to let you change your travel dates if you explain the situation, although there are no rules which legally require them to do this.
Travel insurance similarly won’t usually cover the cost of your trip if you have to cancel because your passport hasn’t arrived in time. Most policies list being unable to travel due to not having your passport or other travel documents among their exclusions, although you should check the small print carefully just to be certain.
When it comes to your passport, travel insurance will generally only pay out if it’s lost or stolen while you’re away and this disrupts your travel plans.
What can I do to speed my passport application along?
If you’re travelling soon, the Passport Office offers a one-week Fast Track service which costs £142 for an adult passport, compared to the usual cost of £75.50. You can book an appointment for the service at GOV.UK.
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Appointments do get booked up extremely quickly and only a certain number are released each day, so you might find there aren’t any available when you look. Keep checking though throughout the day – hopefully you might be lucky and get one.
If you’ve already applied for your passport and have been waiting several weeks to get it back, call the Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000. Bear in mind that there’s currently very high demand for this service too, so you may find it difficult to get through.