‘Unprecedented’ passport delays could cost £1.1 billion in cancelled holidays


There has been an ‘unprecedented…yet foreseeable’ surge in passport applications in recent months, one which has resulted in reported delays to the standard 10-week waiting time listed on the government website.

It has been estimated that the delays could cost holidaymakers up to £1.1 billion in cancelled trips this year.

Several MPs have spoken out critically about the situation. Conservative MP for North Dorset Simon Hoare claimed the Passport Office were unprepared for the ‘foreseeable’ increase in demand for applications.

He also accused the Passport Office helpline of letting down applicants who were attempting to track their applications, saying: ‘Constituents going abroad for a family funeral, for a holiday or for business reasons are not getting through to the office, and are lied to by officials when they do.’

Some MPs have reported anecdotal evidence that waiting times are as high as 15 weeks, with families waiting up to 5 months for passports to arrive.

In a statement addressing the delays, the Passport Office claimed that: ‘Since April 2021, HMPO (HM Passport Office) has been advising people to allow up to ten weeks when applying for their British passport. This remains the case.’

Why are passports taking so long to arrive?

According to the government, more than 5 million travellers decided to put off renewing their passport during 2020-21 due to Covid travel restrictions.

 In their statement, the Passport Office claimed that the present delays are not because they are catching up on the backlog during Covid, but rather down to the current surge in demand.

Research from the VisitBritain Covid-19 Consumer Sentiment Tracker estimates that ‘more than two in five [travellers] are planning an overseas trip in the coming 12 months,’ as stated by the CEBR.

PA graphics show passports printed in the UK each month
Image credit: PA Graphics

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How many months do you need on your passport before you travel?

It’s important to check that you have sufficient validity left on your passport before you book any holidays. For those who already have a summer holiday in the calendar, it’s also wise to check that your passport is valid for the minimum number of months required by your chosen destination.

Aside from Ireland, countries in the Schengen Area (most EU countries, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and a few others) require your passport to be valid for at least 3 months after your intended return date.

However, some countries, such as Thailand, China and Egypt, require at least 6 months validity from the date of your return to the UK, while nations such as Canada, Australia and the USA only require your passport to be valid for the length of your stay.

You can check a full list of destinations and their passport validity requirements on the government website here.

How do I make sure my passport gets here on time?

For those yet to send off their passport application to HMPO, there are few things you can do to ensure your application process is as efficient as possible.

  1. Make sure you apply for your passport at least 10 weeks in advance, as stated by HMPO
  2. Ensure all information is accurate
  3. Use a professional photographer to take your passport photo to ensure you don’t need to redo the image

For those who need to apply for new passport and are concerned it won’t arrive on time, there are a couple of options available:

  • Apply for your passport to be fast-tracked through HMPO. According to their website, this normally costs £142 for an adult passport, and £122 for a child passport. You can use the fast-track passport service to: renew an adult or child passport that has expired or that is about to expire; change personal details on your passport (for example your name, place of birth or gender); replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport; or, apply for a first child passport.
  • Book an appointment at a Passport Customer Service Centre.

To find out more information on fast-tracking your passport application, visit the government website here.

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