Passport wait times dramatically reduced — how long should it now take?

May 26, 2022

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If you’ve booked flights, a cruise or the Eurostar lately you might well have been one of the thousands of travellers frantically tapping their fingers in anticipation of a new passport following record wait times for renewals and applications.

Going well above the usual 10-week maximum wait, delays have been so alarming that at one stage the government even mooted the idea of privatising the Passport Office.

Additionally, as travellers started to travel abroad for the first time since restrictions began to ease across the globe, officials asked all British travellers to check their expiry dates in the face of airline confusion over E.U. entry rules post-Brexit.

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This perfect storm had been brewing for some time (five million people delayed their passport renewals during the worst of the pandemic) and has resulted in missed flights, cancelled holidays and, we imagine, more than a few teary Facetime calls.

But there may yet be light at the end of the boarding bridge.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons back in January (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)

Speaking during PMQs at the House of Commons yesterday (25 May), Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered some positive news on the delays when quizzed about the passport chaos by Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer.

Related: How long do I need on my passport to travel? A country-by-country breakdown

“With the summer holidays looming, there are reports that the Home Office already has a backlog of 500,000 passports to issue,” said Starmer.

“That is potentially more than half a million people worrying whether they will get away this summer. Can the prime minister reassure people that they will not miss out on their holidays due to the failures of his Home Office?”

Johnson responded by saying that No.10 was “massively increasing” the rate at which the Passport Office is working, revealing that the average wait time is now down to about half what it recently was.

“To the best of my knowledge, everybody is getting their passport within four to six weeks,” he said. “That is because we are driving the leadership of this country and we are getting things done that would never have been possible if we had listened to the opposition

However, it’s worth taking Johnson’s optimistic claims with a pinch of salt considering the chaos that has engulfed the travel industry as a whole this year, not to mention his own track record of offering clear facts of late.

Related: Jet2 adds 5 great new routes for summer 2023 — including Sicily, Rome and Athens

Indeed, the fast-track passport application portal on the Gov.uk website — it costs £142 for an adult passport (or £152 for a 50-page frequent traveller passport); and £122 for a child passport (or £132 for a 50-page frequent traveller passport) — is still inaccessible and unable to use at the time of writing. Almost an entire month since it was first reported to be down by The Points Guy UK. 

(Screenshot courtesy of Gov.uk)

The closure of the fast-track portal may well be down to staff pooling all their resources together and working through a huge backlog and it may even return in the coming days, but nonetheless, it serves as a reminder to leave plenty of time when it comes to renewing or applying for a passport. The situation could be improving and will likely only get better over the coming weeks but we’re still a way off from having the usual fast track options working seamlessly once again.

Airports and airlines are also bracing themselves for yet more cancellations and delays into summer and beyond, so it’s definitely worth planning ahead and ensuring everything can run as smoothly as possible on your side — including the validity of your passport — when you do reach check-in.

Click here to find out how and when to renew it.

Have you recently applied for a passport? Let us know how quickly it arrived at tips@thepointsguy.co.uk.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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