How long will it take to get a passport during staff strike - and how to get an emergency renewal?

The strike increases the risk of delays for those hoping to get a new passport in time for summer holidays

More than 1,000 workers have walked out of passport offices nationwide, as they begin five weeks of strike action.

Picket lines will be mounted outside passport offices in Glasgow, Durham, Liverpool, Southport, Peterborough, London, Belfast and Newport in Wales.

It comes as the PCS Union continues an increasingly bitter civil service dispute over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions.

But with 25% of the passport workforce out of the office, how will this impact travellers who need an emergency renewal, and voters needing ID, as new rules for local council elections come into play?

Travel expert Simon Calder says the unions couldn't have picked a better time to cause disruption but it shouldn't cause a panic among travellers

How long will it take to get my passport?

Despite a streamlined workforce, there are currently no plans to change official guidance on how long it takes to get a passport.

It takes up to ten weeks to get a passport, whether that's renewing an old one or applying for a new one from the UK, according to the Home Office.

People can either apply online for £82.50 or get one by filling out a paper form from a post office, this costs an extra £16.00.

Children's passports cost £53.50.

The latest figures (as of March 2023) show over 99.7% of standard applications are being processed within 10 weeks, with the majority of those delivered to customers well under this timescale.

Can you still get an emergency passport renewal during the strike?

Ordinarily, people who urgently need their passport renewed are advised to use the Online Premium or one week Fast Track services.

However, there is reduced availability for this service during the five-week industrial action, the Home Office has confirmed.

No appointments appear to be available this week, according to the Home Office website web page used for booking fast track face-to-face meeting applications.

There are no appointments for emergency passport renewal this week, according to the Home Office website. Credit: ITV News

On Monday morning, Twitter users were reported struggles to get an emergency passport renewal appointment.

The Home Office has said new appointments will be released every day but they often get booked up very quickly.

Those who need an emergency passport for medical treatment, because a friend or family member is seriously ill or has died, or for urgent government business, are being urged to call the Passport Adviceline.

When should I renew my passport post-Brexit?

Since Brexit, tighter restrictions have been put on passports.

Previously they were valid for ten years, up to and including their expiry date for travel to EU countries.

But post-Brexit, British passport holders wishing to travel to EU countries in the 'Schengen Area' are treated as non-EU nationals.

This means passports need to be:

  • Valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting, and;

  • Issued within the previous ten years.

So, while your passport may appear within the correct date window, if it has not been issued in the past ten years, you could be stopped from boarding your plane.

To be on the safe side, it is best to apply to renew your passport before it is nine years and nine months old.

Since Brexit rules on passport expiry dates have been made stricter. Credit: PA

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is made up of 26 countries and guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens, along with non-EU nationals living in the EU or visiting the EU as tourists.

It is comprised of most EU countries, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania. The non-EU countries Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are also part of the Schengen area.

What can I use for ID at local elections if I don't have a passport?

Under new rules British voters will need to bring photo ID to be able to vote in the upcoming May local elections.

The government says the scheme is to "protect the integrity of elections", despite there being little evidence of electoral fraud at UK polling stations.

If you're still waiting for your passport to be delivered you can use your driving licence or one of the many forms of ID which are accepted.

IDs accepted at polling stations:

  • Passport issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state or a Commonwealth country

  • Driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an EEA state (this includes a provisional driving licence)

  • A Blue Badge

  • Older Person’s Bus Pass

  • Disabled Person’s Bus Pass

  • Oyster 60+ Card

  • Freedom Pass

  • Scottish National Entitlement Card

  • 60 and Over Welsh Concessionary Travel Card

  • Disabled Person’s Welsh Concessionary Travel Card

  • Senior SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • Registered Blind SmartPass or Blind Person’s SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • War Disablement SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • 60+ SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • Half Fare SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • Identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)

  • Biometric immigration document

  • Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)

  • National identity card issued by an EEA state

  • Electoral Identity Card issued in Northern Ireland

  • Anonymous Elector's Document

There is little evidence of electoral fraud at polling stations. Credit: PA

What if I don't have any of the above?

Around two million people are estimated to not have an eligible form of photo ID.Those people can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate online.

All that's needed is a recent, digital photo of yourself and your National Insurance number.

This needs to be done before 5pm on April 25, 2023 for the Voter Authority Certificate to arrive in time for the 4 May 2023 elections in England.

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