Queues at HM Passport Office extend outside the building

Queue here if WFH civil servants are going to ruin your holiday: Lines snake OUTSIDE the Passport Office as thousands of Britons face waiting LONGER than official 10-week window for travel documents

  • Pictures from the passport office in Peterborough show lengthy queues outside
  • Britons rushed to offices across country to try and secure documents quicker
  • It is estimated there is a backlog of about 500,000 applications to be processed
  • Home Office minister has promised 700 new staff in a bid to tackle the backlog 

Desperate travellers were queuing out the door at the passport office yesterday in a bid to beat the huge backlog caused by staff shortages and a surge in post-Covid travel.

Photos showed lengthy queues snaking round the building at the passport office in Peterborough with families waiting hours to be seen in the hope that their holiday plans could go ahead.

Other offices in Durham, Liverpool, Glasgow, London, Newport and Belfast are equally busy trying to cope with demand as it is estimated there is a huge backlog of 500,000 passport applications to process.

The usual wait for a passport is around five weeks, but target waiting time has been increased on HM Passport Office website to 10 weeks as officials struggle to keep up with demand.

Despite this, Home Office minister, Tom Pursglove admitted last week that the current 10-week target of processing applications is not ‘guaranteed’.

Mr Purglove said passport offices across the country will be reinforced with an additional 700 staff ‘by summer’ in a bid to quickly process millions of outstanding passport applications.

People queuing outside the passport office in Peterborough, as Brits face lengthy delays for passport applications due to a combination of staff shortages and a surge in post-Covid travel

The wait time is about five weeks, the target was extended to 10 weeks due to the backlog

People queuing outside the passport office in Peterborough to get applications quicker

The backlog has been blamed on a sudden rush in demand for new passports following a lull during the two years of Covid-enforced travel restrictions.

Officials have argued that holidaymakers have put off their passport renewal until they needed to go abroad as a result.

Post-Brexit travel rules from the EU have complicated matters further as they require travelling Britons to have at least three months validity remaining when travelling to EU member nations.

The Government expects 9.5 million British passport applications to be dealt with in 2022 – almost double the number processed last year.

It comes as families continue to face holiday disruption as a result of the enormous backlog in applications. 

An Edinburgh family were forced to cancel their long-awaited trip to Disneyland after passport delays meant they were unable to travel.

Home Office Minister, Tom Pursglove (pictured at the Home Affairs Committee last week), said passport offices across the country will be reinforced with the new staff ‘by summer’

Holidaymakers were pictured in long queues form at Durham passport office last Thursday

Stuart McLean, his wife, Claire, and their two young girls were due to head to Paris for a five-day trip to mark their five-year-old’s birthday this month.

Applying for passports for both girls in February, the family were told that the wait time would be five to seven weeks, allowing plenty of time before they headed off.

However, Stuart, 35, said that unexplained delays in the passport office had seen one of the passports arrive after four weeks, with the other nowhere to be seen.

With one passport still nowhere to be seen, the couple made the decision to cancel the trip less than two weeks before they were due to head off in order to ensure they got their £3,000 costs back.

Stuart said: ‘We had been taking our daughter for her fifth birthday, and had applied for the passports at the start of February.

‘One came within four weeks but there was no sign of the one for our two-year old.’

As their departure date of May 10 continued to get closer, the McLeans were unable to get through to the passport office for an update, and were then made aware their flights had also been disrupted and easyJet had cancelled their return flight.

Stuart added: ‘At point it was two weeks to go, we were looking at alternative return flights but Air France was a lot more expensive and we still hadn’t got anything from the passport and you can only get a refund from Disneyland if you cancel less than a week before.

Officials have claimed that families have waited too late to begin renewing their passports

‘We had spent in total around £3,000 on the trip so we cancelled the full thing to make sure we got the money back.’ 

The father-of-two said: ‘We had had it booked for about seven months, the last couple of years the kids have really struggled, they have had all their classes groups and nursery things cancelled so we just wanted to give them a nice holiday.

‘But we were planning to surprise my daughter on the day we flew for her birthday so luckily she was none the wiser.’

Responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons, Mr Pursglove, who is the minister for Tackling Illegal Migration, said 700 extra staff will be recruited ‘by the summer’ to help clear the backlog. 

‘The Passport Office is increasing staffing by 700 by the summer and, of course, there were 500 additional staff added there since last April already,’ he added. 

However he said the 10-week target is ‘not guaranteed’. The turnaround time is usually three weeks. But due to the backlog Passport Office officials are warning of a turnaround time of up to 10 weeks.

Mr Pursglove said the ‘vast majority’ of applications would continue to be processed ‘well within 10 weeks, with over 90% of applications issued within six weeks between January and March 2022, and less than 1.4% of the passports printed last week for UK applications have been in the system for longer than 10 weeks’.

Shadow Home Office minister, Stephen Kinnock, added: ‘The chaos at the Passport Office reflects the wider failures of our Home Office, which is simply not fit for purpose under this Home Secretary.’ 

Alongside an application backlog, The Passport Office is also reportedly suffering a staffing crisis, with unions claiming officials had wanted to sign up 1,700 new staff to help deal with the increase in demand. 

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) told the i that there were as many as 500,000 passport application documents had not been uploaded into the system.

The union blamed the backlog on the Passport Office’s ‘inability’ to recruit sufficient permanent staff to meet soaring demand and its over-reliance on poorly-trained agency workers.

It claimed the Passport Office planned to recruit 1,700 new staff members to help deal with the increased demand. However union bosses said that only around 300 had been brought on board so far.

‘This has left decisions on passport renewals being completed by agency staff with little training and insufficient oversight,’ a PCS spokesperson told i.

The paper also reported claims that the Government had brought in Royal Mail and DHL to ease potential delays in delivering passports. 

DHL has reportedly increased its capacity by 25 per cent to help ease the strain, while Royal Mail is assisting by sending back non urgent supporting documentation.

Home Office minister Kevin Foster previously said he was ‘confident’ the 10-week target for passports will not be extended further.

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