Passport 'shambles' as holiday hopefuls could lose out due to surge in demand

What is causing the backlog? Political Reporter Shehab Khan explains

People hoping to travel abroad this summer could miss out on their holidays due to an "unprecedented surge" in passport applications.

Those who need to renew their outdated passports should apply "as soon as possible," a government minister has warned, as the Passport Office faces huge backlogs.

Home Office minister Kevin Foster told MPs the department had dealt with one million passport applications last month alone.

"To put that into context, we usually deal with seven million in a whole year," he added.

Some families have been facing heartbreak as their passport applications are delayed, preventing them from travelling.

The Commons heard of one woman who has waited more than five months to receive her daughter’s new passport, with services branded “either really very good or an absolute shambles”.

The government has advised people hoping to travel abroad this summer to get their passport applications in as soon as possible. Credit: PA

SNP home affairs spokesman Stuart C McDonald said: “All our constituents are having to cancel holidays, miss funerals, rearrange visits."

He added the 10-week processing target was "routinely being failed," labelling the situation a "predictable mess".

Mr Foster said people who have "compelling and compassionate circumstances such as a funeral" can have their applications expedited.

But he added: "This is a very, virtually unprecedented surge in demand, and if people are planning to travel this summer we would advise them to get their application in as soon as possible.”

Conservative MP Simon Hoare described the passport backlog as “unprecedented, true, but foreseeable, absolutely”.

The North Dorset MP added: “Certainly my constituents are telling me their experience is either really very good or it is an absolute shambles.

Mr Hoare went on to say constituents contacting the Passport Office are "not getting through (and) are then being lied to by officials when they do get through".

Mr Foster has agreed a review of the hotline's performance is needed.

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The processing delays are “really disappointing”, the boss of Heathrow Airport has said.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said it is “vital” that people can go on holiday this summer in case the UK reintroduces coronavirus travel restrictions.

“Normally the Passport Office is very slick in processing passports. It’s really disappointing to hear (about delays).

“If it’s not resolved, it is going to mean that people can’t get away.

“After two years of lockdown, we need to make sure people can have a good holiday because many of them have vouchers that they’ve been saving up, they’ve got trips of a lifetime that they’ve put on hold, and we don’t know when things might get closed down again.

“Making the most of the summer is vital.”

And the processing backlog is not the only passport problem causing holiday heartache.

A rule for visitors to European Union (EU) countries that applies to British passport holders post-Brexit is also seeing holiday hopefuls turned away at boarding gates.

When the UK was a member of the EU, British passports remained valid up to and including their expiry date for travel to other EU countries.

But post-Brexit, British passport holders wishing to travel to most EU countries must meet two key requirements. If you are a non-EU national wishing to visit or travel within the EU, you will need a passport:

  • valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting

  • which was issued within the previous 10 years

This means you should really be looking at the date of issue when checking if you need to renew, as well as the expiry date.

It may appear that your passport is within date, but if it hasn't been issued in the past 10 years you could be stopped from boarding your flight.

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, told ITV News: “There has been confusion over guidance for travel to the EU. Passports must be issued within 10 years of entry into your destination country and remain in date for at least three months after the day you plan to return to the UK. 

“It is essential to ensure your passport is valid when you are due to travel and return home. Otherwise you risk losing the money for your flight or holiday as your provider will not refund you, and insurance will not cover you for the error.”