Delays continue to plague the new blue British passport – and now the cost is rising

People line up outside HM Passport Office in London, UK - Hollie Adams

People line up outside HM Passport Office in London, UK – Hollie Adams

The new blue-black British passport has had its ups and downs since it was introduced in 2020. You certainly cannot expect to air-sway at the authorities and assume that they will be impressed by His Majesty’s Demands and Demands to allow you to pass through Them unhindered. .

Indeed, the EU withdrawal agreement means that you risk being in long queues when you arrive in a member state, especially if you land at an airport at the same time as many other flights from the UK.

And last year it hit the Henley Index, which measures the “strength” of different national passports by how many countries they allow you to visit visa-free. It fell to 13th place after countries such as England, Singapore, Spain and Luxembourg.

Things have improved since then. According to the latest report from Henley, it ranks sixth, on par with France, Ireland and Portugal, but far behind its 2010 rankings when it was the World’s most powerful passport. But at least things seem to be moving in the right direction.

Such ups and downs are largely part of the fallout from Brexit and the terms on which it was negotiated. But there is one problem we can’t blame: bureaucratic delays and a huge backlog at the Passport Office.

The turnaround time for renewal of the old burgundy EU passport was just two to three weeks in 2019. Now you need to allow up to 10 weeks. And applicants, whose 5 percent reached nearly 360,000 people last year, had to wait longer than that, according to a study published in December by the National Audit Office.

True, the pressure has eased a bit since demand peaked last spring. This was when the rush to apply for renewals anticipating the end of Covid restrictions and the combined lack of staff to deal with them caused chaos and forced some readers to cancel their travel plans.

But even though the Passport Office has about a year to reactivate, it still warns applicants to allow the full 10 weeks for renewal to be processed. And now it’s raising prices. On February 2, the standard online application fee for adults from the UK will increase from £75.50 to £82.50, while the cost of postal applications will increase from £85 to £93.

Meanwhile, those of us who can’t stay without passports for that long – and I think there are many – have to pay even more for one of the two express transit services offered (gov.uk/get-a-passport-urgent). Their cost is also increasing. Fast Track service increased from £142 to £155 and online premium service increased from £177 to £193.50.

These increases will “help the government continue to improve its services,” according to the Passport Office. In my view, it’s shocking that what used to be a simple and reliable service has deteriorated like this. And it is frankly scandalous that those who need a productive return are forced to pay through the nose to use it.

So what should you do if your passport is nearing its expiration date? Is it worth applying to renew immediately without increasing costs? Or – to save a few pounds – are you risking becoming part of a hustle and bustle that will only prolong the already long waiting times for passport renewal and issuance?

The Passport Office has not changed its recommendation regarding processing times, but there is a risk that the increase in applications to beat the price increase will put more pressure on the system. This will catch you either way – apply later in February or March and the bloat will still be in the system. So, if you need to renew in the next few months, it’s best to apply and apply before the price goes up, as long as you can last up to 10 weeks without your passport.

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