Government to fast-track passport renewals to save people’s holidays

The government has pledged to fast-track passport applications to save the holidays of potentially millions of Britons this summer.

Renewals will be guaranteed within within five working days – but only if travellers can prove they applied a month ago and need to go abroad within the next fortnight.

Two million passports are believed to have expired during lockdown and there are waits of 10 weeks or more for renewals.

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Earlier Boris Johnson announced he wanted to tackle “backlog Britain” and to encourage people to “stop thinking of coronavirus as something that makes it impossible to do things”.

At the start of lockdown, passport offices were reduced to a skeleton service prioritising urgent and compassionate cases. The Home Office said more than 6,500 passports have been issued on compassionate and emergency grounds.

The normal fast-track services were suspended.

While more staff began to return on 27 April, HM Passport Office is still some way from normal levels of operation.

Earlier this week the Home Office confirmed there was a backlog of more than 400,000 passport application. The number is set to increase as more travel opportunities open up.

In one case, a 15-year-old waited so long for a renewal that she turned 16 and was asked for more money for an adult passport. The overall process took 11 weeks.

For adults applying for a passport for the first time, the obligatory security checks mean the process takes longer than renewals. But the Passport Office is seeking to ensure that anyone with pre-planned travel does not miss out if the application has been submitted correctly and in good time.

Prospective travellers in this position are urged to contact the passport advice line on 0300 222 0000.

People who have yet to book should not do so until they have received their passport.

The government is also keen to persuade people who do not yet need to renew to postpone their applications until autumn, when a full service is hoped to operate.

For travel to EU destinations, passports are valid for travel up to and including the date of expiry, at least until the end of the 2020.

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