Scramble for passports: Government warns holidaymakers it will take 10 WEEKS for applications thanks to 2020 backlog and PM’s promise of cheap testing scheme to kickstart foreign flights
- Passport Office has said Brits should now allow up to 10 weeks for applications
- It said there had been a ‘significant drop’ in applications during the pandemic
- But return of international travel in coming months could spark surge in requests
- Comes after Boris Johnson said he had not ‘given up’ on flights resuming May 17
Britons are being advised to now allow up to 10 weeks for passport applications to be processed ahead of an expected pre-summer holiday surge after requests plummeted during 2020.
The Passport Office said there had been a ‘significant drop’ in the number of people applying for a travel document last year as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc with international trips.
In a normal year the office deals with approximately seven million applications but in 2020 the number was just over four million.
Boris Johnson yesterday boosted optimism that non-essential international travel will resume from May 17 as he said he has not ‘given up’ on the target date set out in his lockdown exit roadmap.
The Passport Office is now braced for a spike in applications and is urging people to allow more time for them to be processed.
Britons are being advised to allow up to 10 weeks for passport applications to be processed after requests plummeted during 2020 (stock image)
Boris Johnson has increased optimism of non-essential international travel resuming from May 17 after he said he had not ‘given up’ on the date
The Passport Office said that while a ban on non-essential international travel is still in place ‘people can make sure nothing stands in their way when they can’ head abroad by applying now.
The body said ‘all applications will be processed as quickly as possible’ but warned people ‘should now allow up to 10 weeks’.
Director General of Her Majesty’s Passport Office, Abi Tierney, said: ‘It is vital those who may need to apply for a new passport do so now.
‘If you have delayed renewing your passport or are applying for the first time, please apply now so you can receive it in good time.
‘Our dedicated staff work tirelessly to ensure that passport applications are processed as quickly as possible.
‘This new advice will help to ensure that we continue to meet the travel plans of our customers during any period of the very highest passport demand.’
The Passport Office will be sending text messages to people whose passports are nearing expiration to remind them to renew.
Mr Johnson announced earlier this week that a traffic light system will be used when international travel is allowed to resume.
The system will see countries rated green, amber or red based on criteria like coronavirus case numbers, vaccination levels and prevalence of variants.
Travel from ‘green’ countries will be quarantine-free but people will still have to be tested before departure and on arrival back in the UK.
Aviation chiefs expressed concerns that the testing requirement could price many people out of holidays abroad.
But Mr Johnson hinted yesterday that cheap lateral flow tests could be used instead of more expensive laboratory-based PCR tests.
In a normal year the Passport Office deals with approximately seven million applications but in 2020 the number was just over four million
He said: ‘We’re going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible.
‘I do want to see international travel start up again. We have to be realistic. A lot of the destinations that we want to go to at the moment are suffering a new wave of the illness, of Covid, as we know.
‘We can’t do it immediately, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve given up on May 17. We will be saying as much as we can, as soon as we can, about international travel.
‘I know how impatient people are to book their holidays if they possibly can but I think we just have to be prudent at this stage.’