Passport Q&A: Families 'held to ransom' but application 'backlogs' are denied. What do you need to know?

With fears growing about delays in the issue of UK passports, Simon Calder provides some answers

Travel Correspondent

Q What is happening at the Passport Office?

That depends who you believe. According to the PCS union, there is a backlog of half-a-million passports, which they claim is as a result of job cuts at the Passport Office. As a result, it is feared that holidays and business trips could be jeopardised. The government maintains that the vast majority of passports are being issued and renewed as normal, and that there is no need to panic.

Given that around 6m passports are likely to be issued or renewed this year, and assuming a three-week processing time, at any one time you would expect around 350,000 passports to be in the system – with a peak around this time of year, as people realise their passports are soon to expire and they have a holiday booked.

Read more
Passport office backlog: David Cameron promises extra staff to clear pile of applications
Passport Office 'backlogs': Families being 'held to ransom' by fees for fast-tracked applications  

Most of the people who have contacted The Independent with concerns are special cases: people who have had their passport stolen or simply can’t find it; adults who have never had a passport before, and who must have a personal interview; and expatriates based abroad who are experiencing long delays. The information here deals only with straightforward replacements for adults and new passports for children.

Q I am going on holiday in Europe in July, and my passport expires in August. Do I need to renew it?

No. There are lots of scurrilous rumours doing the rounds online saying that, for example, anyone going to the Canaries needs three or six months remaining on their passport. This is nonsense. The Foreign Office says: “Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required. This applies to the whole of Spain, including the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera).” The same applies to Croatia – another country that is subject to misinformation – and anywhere else in the EU. As far as I am aware, the only European countries with more complex rules are Russia, Belarus and Iceland.

Q What about further afield?

Egypt and Turkey are likely to present problems to some British holidaymakers. Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months from the date of entry into either country. In addition, for Turkey you need to apply online for a visa at evisa.gov.tr/en.

For the US, however, you need no additional validity. But you must apply in advance for an “Esta” at esta.cbp.dhs.gov.

Q I am travelling in July and I need a replacement passport. Should I apply in the normal way?

In theory, if you apply today you should expect a straightforward renewal within four weeks. However, to make sure you will need to invest more time and money. Either go for the Fast Track one-week service for £103 (compared with the normal fee of £72.50) or the Premium 1-day service for £128. Whichever you choose, you will need to call the Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000 to make an appointment at one of the passport offices in London, Liverpool, Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Newport or Peterborough. You may have to wait up to three weeks for an appointment.

Q And August?

With seven weeks to spare, I would apply in the normal way – but invest an extra £8.75 for the Check & Send service at the Post Office, which should pick up any errors and avoid hold-ups.

Q My passport is already in the system and I am due to travel in a week. What can I do?

Call the Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000 to see if you can upgrade your application to use the Premium 1-Day service. You will need the barcode number of your application; this was on your application form, or on your receipt if you used Check & Send. If you are allowed to proceed, you will need to go to one of the passport offices.

The Passport Office warns: “Upgrades are usually only available in special circumstances - for example, you’ve had to change your travel plans at short notice” and “the service isn’t always available during Her Majesty’s Passport Office’s busy periods.”

Q If I miss my holiday because I haven't got a passport, can I claim compensation?

No. The Passport Office says: "Don’t book travel until you have a valid passport - doing so is at your own risk."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent