Passport Office strikes: How will this affect passport applications - and how can I renew a passport urgently?
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Passport Office workers are now on strike for five weeks until May 5 in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They have taken industrial action over a dispute about jobs, pay and conditions.
The strikes involve more than a quarter of the Passport Office’s 4,000 employees - and are taking place now, until the beginning of May 2023. The members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) are walking out at eight different locations across the country.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to the government calling for urgent talks in a bid to resolve the dispute. There will be picket lines outside offices in Glasgow, Durham, Liverpool, Southport, Peterborough, London, Belfast and Newport in Wales.
But what does this mean for people waiting for a passport, or needing to apply for one, or renew? There are a number of different options - but demand is already high.
What’s the official advice over how long it will take to get a passport?
The Home Office is still advising people to submit passport applications 10 weeks in advance of holiday plans. That advice doesn’t look like it will change, with guidance saying people should leave 10 weeks for passports to be processed and sent out.
The Home Office said it was "disappointed" by the strike action, and added it was "working to manage" the disruption, and continue the service through "comprehensive contingency plans".
The advice to wait 10 weeks has been in place since April 2021, and previously the wait was three to six weeks depending on the type of application. The Home Office says that in January and February, 99.5% of applications were processed in 10 weeks.
What to do if your passport hasn’t arrived?
If you’re stuck waiting for your passport to arrive, you can get an update by tracking your passport application on the website. All you’ll need is your application reference number.
If you need to get your passport sooner, you might be able to upgrade your existing application.
The Passport Office says if you need to travel urgently for family or medical reasons, call the adviceline on 0300 222 0000 if you’re in the UK or +44 (0)300 222 0000 outside the UK. The phonelines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and Saturday, Sunday and UK bank holidays, 9am to 5:30pm.
Can I get a refund from my travel provider if my passport hasn’t arrived?
No, basically. Money Saving Expert says if you can’t go on your trip because you don’t have a valid passport, you’re not entitled to a refund from travel providers, as they’re still offering the service you booked. Airlines and hotels don’t have to give refunds in these circumstances.
Can I fast-track my passport application?
However, you need to book a passport office appointment and pay online. You can book an appointment up to 3 weeks in advance. However, when you currently go to book an appointment (Monday April 3), there are none available as ‘demand is high’.
A message on the Passport Office booking page says: “Sorry there are no available appointments. Due to high demand there aren’t any appointments available at the moment.
“Extra appointments are added each day, so check again later for availability. You can still apply using the standard service. Only use Online Premium if you really need to - it costs more to use this service.”
One week fast-track
This is where your new passport is delivered to your home within one week of your appointment. You can use this service to:
- renew an adult or child passport
- change your name on your passport (for example with a marriage certificate or deed poll)
- make changes to your personal details on your passport (for example, your gender)
- replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport
- apply for a first child passport
Are there other ways to get a passport faster?
You can use the Online Premium service where you can get an appointment in two days.
It costs £193.50 (or £204.50 for a 50 page frequent traveller passport). You can only use Online Premium to renew an adult passport that was issued after 31 December 2001.
However, if you’ve already applied for a passport and have not received it yet, you will not get your passport sooner. You are advised not to use this service.