Applications for new and renewed passports are being delayed as staff have been diverted to deal with visas for refugees fleeing Ukraine, according to reports. The Mirror says anyone who needs a new passport for a holiday this summer should apply for one as soon as possible if they want a chance of getting it in time.
An estimated 4.5 million people in the UK will need to apply for a passport if they want to travel this summer, and processing could take up to 10 weeks. The delays are blamed on a backlog of Covid applications as people are allowed to travel again and a shortage of passports due to the war in Ukraine.
An insider said: “Many of our staff have been seconded to deal with visas for Ukrainians. Processing these is now our top priority so we can get as many as possible to safety.”
The Passport Office processes seven million applications in a normal year, but that figure fell to four million at the height of the pandemic when travel was banned.
Now officials are preparing for a sudden influx of five million 2020 and 2021 applications before the summer.
The Passport Office also warns that the availability of in-person appointments for last-minute travel will be limited. Director General of Passports Abi Tierney said: “A lot of people leave too late to apply for a passport.
“Summer vacation is fast approaching, so if you need a new passport, we invite you to apply now.”
Last month, new passports were renewed in six weeks and renewals in five, but now that is expected to double. A spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents said: “We encourage people to renew or apply as soon as possible so they have their passport in time for their trip.”
There were also warnings of 10-week delays at the height of the pandemic.