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Passport chaos: Couriers found to have lost hundreds as anxious holidaymakers chase applications

Although passport applications dropped last year, 1,196 documents were recorded as ‘lost during delivery by courier’

Lucy Thackray
Tuesday 17 May 2022 15:13 BST
Ministers said last week that one in seven applications was exceeding the 10-week target
Ministers said last week that one in seven applications was exceeding the 10-week target (Getty Images)

Thousands of passports and key documents were lost by couriers last year - even as the number of passport applications plummeted, according to the Daily Mirror.

A Freedom of Information request showed that although only 4,823,620 passports were issued in 2021 (more than 6,600,000 were typical prior to the pandemic), 1,196 were recorded as “lost during delivery by courier”.

In 2020 just 519 passports - nearly half the 2021 figure - were recorded as lost by couriers, while in 2019 the figure was 437.

The new figures show that the number of travel documents mislaid by couriers has steadily climbed, despite the number of passport applications falling.

Although it will take some months for 2022’s figures to be recorded, it’s the latest development in weeks of passport chaos, as hundreds of thousands of Britons wait weeks for their travel documents amid delays and backlogs.

This spring has seen a surge in post-pandemic passport applications, with the Home Office recently advising holidaymakers to allow 10 weeks or more for a renewed document to be returned. The usual time frame for an adult passport is five weeks.

There are an estimated 500,000 applications currently waiting to be resolved.

Last week junior Home Office minister Tom Pursglove admitted that this 10-week time frame was not ‘guaranteed’, with many travellers saying they’ve waited longer.

While answering MPs’ questions on the passport delays in Parliament last week, Mr Pursglove revealed that one in 70 passport applications has been in the system for longer than the 10-week target.

The Home Office, which oversees HM Passport Office, has promised that 700 new staff will join the department “by summer” but for now the backlog looks set to continue.

Many holidaymakers have tried to speed up their travel documents by going down to their local Passport Office, with visible queues reported outside Peterborough’s local office. Others have complained about sitting on hold for hours after phoning to check up on their application.

However, yesterday tracking website reported that wait times are “going in the right direction”.

Based on its crowd-sourced data, the current average waiting time for an adult passport renewal is 23.35 day (or a little over three weeks), with a first time adult passport longer at 36.45 days (more than five weeks).

A first-issue child’s passport is taking an average of 38.01 days to arrive, while a renewed child’s passport has an average waiting time of 24.63 days.

A Home Office spokesperson said that the majority of passport applications were being completed within 10 weeks, with the latest figures showing 90 per cent were completed within six weeks.

They added: “Between 1 January and 31 July 2021 HM Passport Office sent over 3.3 million items to its customers. While regrettable, less than 0.04 per cent of those were reported as having been lost during delivery, and many of those items have been subsequently recovered.

“The safety of our customers’ personal data is of paramount importance and every attempt is made to recover lost or mis-delivered documents. Once reported, passports are cancelled on the system immediately in order to mitigate against the risk of misuse and we continue to work with our delivery partner to develop measures to reduce the number of losses overall.”

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