16 Mar

Ask the expert: Passports

Ask the expert

Customers often ask me how much time they should allow when applying for a new passport. Last year, the Passport Office said to allow ten weeks. Is that still the case?

2022 was exceptional as travel reopened after years of severe disruption and lockdown restrictions. Inevitably, the industry would face issues and challenges as businesses tried to catch up and rebuild.

One of these was the significant rise in the number of passport applications. HM Passport Office estimated that five million people delayed applying for or renewing their passports until travel restarted, creating a sudden surge in application numbers compared to the levels expected in a typical year. As a result, since April 2021, the Passport Office has advised people to allow up to ten weeks for their passports to be processed. Unfortunately, this ten-week wait remains in place, so ensuring the correct documentation is provided with your application to avoid any additional delays is essential.

Families with children under 16, whose passports are only valid for five years, are more at risk of being caught out by the delays. As such, families must be reminded to check their children's documentation the moment they book their trips.

Passport Validity
There have also been changes to passport validity rules when travelling to the European Union (EU) following the UK's departure from the EU. The previous validity rules no longer apply, and UK citizens must now have no more than ten years on their passport when entering an EU country. You must now check the date a passport was issued and when it is due to expire to ensure it meets the ten-year validity rule. Most places in Europe will require travellers to have a least three months left on their passport on the date of departure from the destination, so as always, we urge you to refer customers to the Foreign Office for advice on the passport rules for the country they are visiting.

It is worth stressing that customers who cannot travel due to not receiving their passports in time will be liable for any resultant cancellation fee, which is not covered by their insurance policy. 

To recap, customers looking to travel and needing a new passport must allow up to ten weeks of processing time for new and renewed passports. Additionally, customers must ensure that their passports meet the ten-year validity rule to travel to an EU country. Finally, they must check their passports' issue and expiry dates before booking their holiday to ensure they meet the new rule.

Julia Ogiehor, Public Affairs Manager at ABTA