Thousands at Risk of Losing Summer Holidays as Passport Office Delays Continue | consumer affairs

This week, a couple explained that they had to cancel their wedding due to persistent delays at the passport office.

Lucia Thompson and her partner, both British nationals living in Australia, have been told they have to wait 13 weeks for their newborn baby’s UK passport to arrive. They are due to marry in the UK next month. the ceremony was postponed twice because of the Covid.

“We applied for our son’s passport in March as soon as the birth certificate was issued,” Thompson told Guardian Money.

“The helpline told us we should have given more time, even though we had no control over when our baby was born. The cost of the wedding is around £40,000, not to mention the cost for guests arriving by air, and our insurance does not cover us for passport issues.

Meanwhile, thousands of families risk losing vacations they have booked for this summer due to delays.

Weeks after the Guardian reported problems to the government agency, the backlog has not been resolved and this week MPs accused it of wreaking an “absolute mess”.

The Home Office is urging travelers to submit passport applications “as soon as possible” as the new 10-week processing target is repeatedly exceeded.

Travelers were left with hundreds of pounds in their pockets because they couldn’t fly after their new passports didn’t arrive in time. Some waited up to five months after applying.

Vacationers have complained of a broken system, with unreachable customer services, processing errors and a lack of appointments for the high-priced priority service. Others say their applications were delayed or even canceled because the Passport Office failed to register supporting documents.

According to the Home Office, more than 5 million people applied for passports after Covid restrictions ended. The EU’s introduction of post-Brexit rules that require passports to have at least three months of validity remaining added to the pressures, and MPs accused the Passport Office of failing to prepare adequately for a “predictable” increase in demand.

Simon Hoare, the Tory MP for North Dorset, told Parliament the Passport Office helpline is failing applicants desperate to track their applications. “Voters who go abroad for family funerals, for holidays or for professional reasons do not come to the office and are lied to by officials when they do,” he said.

Service deficiencies by the Passport Office’s contracted courier service, TNT, are compounding the delays, with some deliveries taking weeks.

Passport checks at Gatwick. The Passport Office advises people to allow up to 10 weeks for their new document to arrive. Photography: Oli Scarff/Getty

A spokesperson for the Passport Office told Guardian Money it had increased its staff by 500 over the past year to cope with demand and processed a record number of applications in March. He said more staff were being recruited by the private contractor who runs his helpline to improve service, and Royal Mail and DHL had been brought in to help with deliveries.

“We have advised people to allow up to 10 weeks to apply for their UK passports as more than 5 million people have delayed their application due to the pandemic,” a spokesperson said. “We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one as soon as possible. The vast majority of all passport applications are processed within 10 weeks. »

A TNT spokesperson said: ‘We have taken a number of steps to restore service levels across our HM Passport Office network – including operational resources, additional team support and additional customer support resources – and we are currently operating within the service level requirements agreed with the Home Bureau. We apologize to any customer who has experienced a delay in passport delivery and will continue to work with HMPO to resolve individual cases.

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