As we head into summer is it any surprise that people are going to need passports to get out and enjoy their summer holidays? But it may not be as simple to get one as you may have hoped. It is rumoured there is a build up of 500,000 applications waiting to be assessed. The below is a picture taken in what was once a meeting room of the Liverpool Passport Office.
A lot of people are saying a lot of different things, all pointing the finger anywhere other than at themselves. The PCS Union (the union that represents public sector workers) claims it is due to job cuts and office closures. Those governing the Passport Office point fingers at the improved economy as a reason for the massive backlog. An increase in disposable income will drive more people to more expensive holidays and a stronger need for passports. And in fact a record 3.3 million applications were sent in the first half of 2014.
Regardless of who or what you choose to believe, what is clear is that a lot of people’s carefully planned summer holidays may be at risk. But there are ways you can get around this and hopefully beat getting lost in the system. They are:
1. Plan ahead
This may go without saying, but it is the passport office’s stance that you should never book a holiday without a valid passport for the duration of your stay. They say, “Don’t book travel until you have a valid passport – doing so is at your own risk.”
2. Apply for the premium service
This is a pricey solution but worth it if this is your only option. The process takes one day and will knock you back £128. You will need to make an appointment with the Passport Advice Line on 0300 222 0000. The service is available in London, Liverpool, Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Newport or Peterborough.
3. Passport application lost in the system?
There are a lot of stories whirling around that applications have been lost in the system since mid-April, with one particular horror story involving a new-born baby and family stuck in the Middle East after the new-born’s British passport failed to arrive as expected. If you’re awaiting a passport to arrive with a holiday fast approaching then it may also be worth phoning the Passport Advice Line and requesting a fast-track service that will cost £103 and take a week to process.
4. Rent a car and stay in the UK
If you haven’t yet booked a holiday and are still waiting for your passport to arrive then maybe you could scrap your plans of travelling abroad and instead rent a car with easyCar or alternately sign up to the easyCar Club to hire from people in your area and opt to travel in the UK. The trend of staycationing (holidaying in the UK) is really taking off at the moment. With good reason, the UK tourism industry is in great shape at the moment with many holidaying options available for all tastes and price ranges.
5. Ignore a lot of the rumours swirling around
There is a lot of talk going on at the moment about having six months on your passport to travel internationally. If you’re traveling in Europe this is false, likewise with the USA. You can travel up to the last day of your passport’s validity. If your holiday is a bit more exotic, such as Egypt, Israel or Russia then different rules apply. You should check with the relevant embassies before travelling if in any doubt.
If all else has failed it might be worth getting in touch with your local MP. They may not be directly able to sort out your passport but will be able to apply political pressure on the respective governmental departments. For information on contacting your local MP take a look at the Government’s website.