What can you do if you are caught up in the passport backlog?

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Half a million people are now said to be waiting for a passport - and the number has doubled in just three months as the Passport Office faced the highest demand for passports for 12 years. Thousands of passports are taking longer than the typical three weeks to return to holiday-makers, threatening travel chaos.

So what can you do if you are affected?

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Home Secretary Theresa May has brought in some emergency measures which should help most people who are planning to travel soon and are panicking about their passport.

Fast track

If you have a holiday booked for some time in the next seven days, and your passport has been tied up for three weeks or longer, you can have your passport fast-tracked free of charge - instead of paying the usual additional fee of £55.50 per person - as long as this isn't your first adult passport. First adult passports can only be upgraded to fast-track if you have compassionate reasons for needing to travel within the next seven days - such as a death in the family.

To take advantage you will need to call the Passport Adviceline, and have your travel details handy - including any flight numbers and the company you are travelling with. You'll also need the barcode number from your application. The passport will then be delivered to your home within a week of your application being accepted.

If its too late

If the Fast Track service is not fast enough for your trip, it's worth calling the Passport Office and asking to be upgraded to a One-Day service. If this isn't possible, you should call your MP. There have been several who spoke in the House of Commons about how they had to assist their constituents and managed to get them a passport more quickly.

In the worst case scenario, if it's too late to fast-track, you may have to cancel your booking. In most circumstances your travel insurance will not cover you for an out-of-date passport, but it's worth checking because LV= recently announced it would cover those who have waited more than 12 weeks for a passport.

For Brits living overseas

British expats whose passports have expired within the past six months can have the passport extended for 12 months by having their existing passport stamped at their nearest Embassy or Consulate - as long as they have at least three blank pages in their passport. This service will be free, but you will need to make an appointment to have the passport stamped and complete an application form. This system will kick in on 23 June.

If you are in this position and have already applied for passport renewal, you cannot switch to have it extended instead. If you need to travel urgently in that case, you need to contact your local Embassy or High Commission to check if you are eligible to receive an Emergency Travel Document - which they normally give to people whose passport has been stolen while they are on holiday.

Emergency Travel Documents can also be used by children of British expats in place of a first-time passport or a passport renewal - as long as there is evidence that both parents agree to this arrangement or that you have sole parental responsibility.

Premium service

If you need to renew your passport soon, but you haven't started the process, you can apply using the Premium Service. It'll cost more (£128 compared to the standard cost of £55.50), and you'll need to book an appointment at a Passport Customer Service Centre, but you can then wait at the centre for four hours and get a new passport on the same day - or go home and have it delivered within a week. At the moment you might have to wait up to three weeks for an appointment - so it's worth contacting the Passport Office to book as soon as possible.


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