Why is it taking so long to get a UK passport right now?

The combo of new post-Brexit travel rules and people not looking at their documents during the pandemic is causing travel chaos

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
Passport on map
Photograph: Shutterstock

As the travel industry tries and struggles to get back into its pre-pandemic rhythm, people are facing loads of queues, cancellations and general misery. And that’s stretching to orders of new passports, too. In the UK, people renewing or applying for new passports are facing a much, much longer wait than usual.

According to Mail Online, some particularly unlucky applicants have been waiting a whopping five months without receiving a new passport. For reference, the usual turnaround is around five weeks, though people are currently being told to allow ten. And while not everyone is likely to be that unlucky, it begs the question: why is it taking so long for Brits to get new passports right now?

There are, it turns out, a couple of answers. For one, the Home Office is blaming people who failed to check their passports during the pandemic, saying that five million passports went out of date in 2020 and 2021 and that last-minute applications are now causing a backlog. As a result, the Passport Office, which is used to handling around seven million passports per year, received a million applications in March alone. 

Another factor is a change in travel rules for Britons going on holiday to the EU. Before Brexit, Brits could travel on their passports up to and including their expiry date. Following the end of the Brexit transition period, however, British passports are now treated like all non-EU passports and are required to be in date for at least three months after the end of your trip.

In other words, we’re seeing increased demand due to the lingering effects of the pandemic and Brexit. And it could last rather a long time – so long, in fact, that the Home Office hasn’t yet been able to give a proper indication of when things might return to normal. Worrying, eh?

So what can you do to make sure your summer holidays (or any future trips at all, for that matter) aren’t ruined by the Passport Office delays? Well, check your documents as soon as you can and if it expires anytime soon, begin the renewal process ASAP.  

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