How long will it take to renew my passport? The latest advice as five-week strike confirmed

passport - Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

passport – Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

Delays in receiving new passports have been an unhappy reality for British travellers over the past couple of years.

Holidays have been ruined thanks to a huge pandemic-related backlog, a lack of spare fast-track appointments and even the loss of precious documents. And now, holidaymakers face more misery after Passport Office staff announced a five-week strike.

More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) working in Passport Offices across the country will walk out from April 3 to May 5. Workers at offices in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport will walk out from April 3 to May 5 while those in Belfast will strike from April 7 to May 5. They are striking due to disputes over pay, pensions and job security.

The union has warned the action will have a “significant impact” on passport deliveries. The Home Office, however, has not updated its existing advice of allowing 10 weeks to receive your new passport. A spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the union’s decision to strike after engaging in constructive talks to find a resolution.

“We are working to manage the impact of strike action, whilst ensuring we can continue to deliver vital services to the public, with comprehensive contingency plans in place.”

Here we run through everything you need to know about applying for a new passport, from costs to waiting times, and what to do if you need a new document urgently.

How long will it take to receive my new passport?

According to the Home Office, holidaymakers should continue to allow 10 weeks to receive their new passports.

However, if you have already applied it is likely you will be sent your document in a shorter time frame. The latest figures show that 97.2 per cent of all applications are being completed within three weeks, compared to 75 per cent last year. Overall, 99.5 per cent of all UK applications are turned around within the 10-week deadline.

It’s unclear if the strike action will cause significant delays in processing, but the mood music from the Government is that it’s unlikely to cause the chaos of last year – when more than 400,000 waited longer than 10 weeks for a new passport.

However, the situation could change with little warning. And as the Home Secretary advised earlier this year, a sudden surge in demand could also impact processing times, which is what led to the severe delays last year as the summer holidays approached. Indeed, it’s possible panic over the strike action will lead to a spike in applications that creates a backlog.

Are passports being lost by the Home Office?

It’s not just delays causing issues for holidaymakers. Travellers may also be worried about their documents being lost, following the news that the number of passports being misplaced by the Home Office has hit a five-year high.

Between January and September last year, there were 487 cases of passports and supporting documents being “confirmed as lost” while “in the possession of delivery providers” in the UK – the highest figure since at least 2018. Meanwhile, from January to October, a further 125 passports were lost or stolen while being delivered overseas.

Although the news doesn’t inspire confidence, the number of lost documents remains relatively low when compared to the number of passports being processed.

How can I get a passport quickly?

If you do need a passport urgently, there are two ways: use the one-week fast-track service or the even faster premium online service. It’s so far unclear whether the strikes will impact these services.

The fast-track service costs £155 for an adult passport and £126 for a child. It can be used for renewals, changing details such as your name, replacing a lost, damaged or stolen passport or applying for a first passport for a child.

The service cannot be accessed online and you must fill in a paper application form, which can be obtained at the Post Office. Confusingly, once you have the paper form you must book an appointment online, to which you will need to bring two passport photos, your form and supporting documents in order for your passport to be approved.

The online premium service is simpler and more speedy but costs a hefty £193.50 (or £204.50 for a 50-page frequent traveller passport). Furthermore, it can only be used to renew adult passports and not to replace lost or damaged documents.

Applications can be completed online and you will be required to book an appointment at a passport centre where you will receive your new document. The earliest you can get an appointment is two days from when you apply.

It is possible to ring up in an attempt to expedite your document, but for this to be authorised you would have to outline special circumstances such as a sudden bereavement. The number to call is 0300 222 0000.

How much does a standard passport renewal cost?

Despite the less-than-stellar service delivered in the past few years, passport prices rose last month. At the start of February, the fee for a standard online application for adults made from within the UK rose from £75.50 to £82.50, while the cost of postal applications increased from £85 to £93. According to the Passport Office, the increase will “help enable the government to continue improving its services”.