Passport warning: Home Office urges Britons to ‘apply now’ as May 17 holiday hopes mount

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed May 17 remains in sight for the date some international travel will resume under his roadmap out of lockdown. Ahead of this, the Home Office has warned Britons who need to update their passport to do so immediately.

Last year, Britons faced huge waits due to delays caused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some travellers found themselves waiting as long as four months for their travel document.

In normal times, passport applications are reported to take approximately three weeks.

Though travel abroad is still illegal under the “Stay in the UK” regulation, hopeful holidaymakers are advised to apply for their passports now in order to avoid lengthy wait times.

The Home Office suggests holidaymakers should allow around 10 weeks when applying for their British passport.

“During the pandemic, Her Majesty’s Passport Office has seen a significant drop in the number of people applying for passports,” states the update.

“In a normal year it processes around seven million passport applications, however in 2020 just over four million people applied for their passport.

“While all applications will be processed as quickly as possible, people should now allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their British passport to help manage this demand.”

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Her Majesty’s Passport Office is set to send text messages to Britons whose passports are nearing expiration in a bid to encourage them to apply with enough time to spare.

The Home Office advises applying online, as this is “the cheapest and easiest way to obtain your passport.”

Director General of Her Majesty’s Passport Office, Abi Tierney, said: “It is vital those who may need to apply for a new passport do so now.

“If you have delayed renewing your passport or are applying for the first time, please apply now so you can receive it in good time.

“Our dedicated staff work tirelessly to ensure that passport applications are processed as quickly as possible.

“This new advice will help to ensure that we continue to meet the travel plans of our customers during any period of the very highest passport demand.”

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “With the ban on international travel it’s easy to forget about your passport, but it’s vitally important that you check its validity if you are even considering a trip in the next few months.

“The significant drop in the number of people applying for a passport last year means we could see a sudden spike in demand when we can all start travelling again. That and changes due to Brexit could mean you need to apply for a new passport sooner than you think.

“If your passport is not up to date when you are due to travel, you will lose the money for your flight or holiday as your provider will not refund you and insurance will not cover you for the error.”

Though the Government has insisted it will be lead by the “data” and not “dates”, the Prime Minister has shown some hope for May 17.

From May 17, the Government has plans to introduce a “traffic light system” with countries labelled as “red”, “amber” or “green”.

Speaking in an address to the nation on Monday, Boris Johnson said: “I do not wish to give hostages to fortune or to underestimate the difficulty we are seeing in some of the destination countries people might want to go to.

“We don’t want to see the virus being reimported into this country from abroad.

“Plainly, there is a surge in other parts of the world and we have to be mindful of that and we have to be realistic.”

He added: “I know that people watching will want to know exactly what they can do from 17 May but we’re not there yet.”

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