British travelers have just over a week left to renew their passport or apply for a new one if they want to ensure they have a valid travel document in time for the summer holidays.
The British passport office has been inundated with applications in recent weeks, leading to wait times of up to 10 weeks.
The government has warned holidaymakers to send in applications “as soon as possible” if their passport is set to expire.
Home Office minister Kevin Foster said in April that a million passport applications had been received in just one month.
“To put that into context, we usually deal with seven million in a whole year,” he told MPs.
“We would advise people this is a very, virtually unprecedented surge in demand, and if people are planning to travel this summer we would advise them to get their application in as soon as possible.”
HM Passport Office warns to “allow up to 10 weeks to receive your passport”, although average wait times are shorter than this.
According to Passportwaitingtime.co.uk, a website that tracks the average wait time to receive a new UK passport, the average time for an adult renewal is currently 25.87 days (3.7 weeks), while a first adult passport has risen to 41.8 days ( six weeks).
A first child passport is taking an average of 39.29 days (5.6 weeks), with renewals taking on average 27.75 days (four weeks).
Some travelers have reported much longer wait times to receive their travel documents.
Labor MP for Barnsley East Stephanie Peacock described the case of a mother who submitted her daughter’s passport application in January – and had yet to receive it five months later.
Counting back from the summer holidays – which start for many schools from 25 July, meaning families would likely be heading off abroad from 23 July – the 10-week cut-off before schools break up is 13 May.
Travelers should get passport applications in by this date if they want to guarantee they have them back in time for the first week of the summer break.
Brits can get a quicker turnaround by paying more to use premium or one week fast-track application services.
However, even these have been hit by issues recently due to a surge in demand.
The fast-track service crashed last week as anxious holidaymakers attempted to renew travel documents ahead of trips abroad.
Reports suggested that the passportappointment.service.gov.uk site was down for two days at the end of April.
When travelers clicked to book a fast-track appointment, the following appeared: “System busy.
“Sorry, we’re experiencing high demand for this service at the moment and the system is busy. Please try again later.”
A spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) said at the time: “Given recent interest in passports, we are seeing an increased number of people visiting our website to view appointment availability for urgent services. This has not affected people submitting a passport application.
“We have increased staff numbers by 500 since April 2021, which has helped us to handle more applications than ever before, with more than one million passport applications processed in March 2022.”