Travellers face 10-week wait for new passports
The maximum time for processing British passport applications has more than tripled due to an expected spike in demand.
HM Passport Office is telling travellers to allow up to 10 weeks to receive the vital document, up from three weeks previously.
Under that timeline, someone applying on Wednesday might not receive their passport until June 16.
Just four million people applied for a passport in 2020 amid the collapse in overseas travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is compared with around seven million during a normal year, suggesting there could be a rush of applications once the ban on holidays is lifted.
People whose passports are nearly expired will be sent text messages telling them to allow more time when they renew.
HM Passport Office director-general 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.”
Overseas leisure travel from the UK is banned due to coronavirus lockdowns.
It could be permitted from May 17 under Boris Johnson’s road map for easing restrictions in England.
Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, said: “With the ban on international travel it’s easy to forget about your passport, but it’s vitally important that you check its validity if you are even considering a trip in the next few months.
“The significant drop in the number of people applying for a passport last year means we could see a sudden spike in demand when we can all start travelling again.
“That, and changes due to Brexit, could mean you need to apply for a new passport sooner than you think.
“If your passport is not up to date when you are due to travel, you will lose the money for your flight or holiday as your provider will not refund you and insurance will not cover you for the error.”
As a result of Brexit, UK passport holders travelling to the European Union must ensure their passport has at least six months validity remaining and is less than 10 years old.