UK Politics

Passport delays: 'We've been held to ransom'

Image copyright PA
Image caption Unions claim there is a backlog of 500,000 applications

The Passport Office has denied that it is failing to cope with applications, despite claims of severe delays.

Its chief executive, Paul Pugh, said more than 99% of "straightforward applications" were being processed within four weeks.

However, some BBC News website readers are experiencing a long delay in receiving their passports.

John and Nicola Edwards, East Kilbride, UK

We sent off both our sons' applications through the Post Office "check and send" on 12 May 2014.

We received one back within six days but not the other which is a first time application.

I first contacted the passport office last Monday for an update and was advised that it was in the examination queue and had been there since 18 May.

Image copyright Nicola Edwards
Image caption Nicola and John Edwards

We sent the application on 11 May and it was received at Durham on 12 May. Apparently because Durham were too busy it was sent to Belfast who received it on 20 May. We've had no explanation as to what happened in those eight days.

I asked if it was possible to pay for the upgrade to get it quicker. They informed me that they would arrange for the upgrade department to call me in 48 hours. No-one called. Over three days later, the call back happened.

When I asked how we received one within six days and not the other I was told it may be stuck at the bottom of a pile. Not a very acceptable answer. No-one can give me any answers or let me know when it's going to be ready.

We are due to travel on 18 June and have been getting extremely worried. All they keep saying is children's applications are taking three weeks.

Finally, I contacted my local MP to complain about the lack of service and the long delays we had experienced.

Out of the blue I got a phone call this morning to say the only way to get the passport in time was to upgrade and pay £79 - which would get the passport to us by 0900 the next morning.

They were even able to give me recorded delivery number to track the package over the phone.

How can there be such a big delay when they are clearly able to pluck an application out of the pile and turn it round in less than 24 hours as long as you're willing to pay an extra £79?

They mentioned my MP's name, so I think that's why we got the call - but I felt the charge of £79 to upgrade after the delay and difficulties we had was a rip off and a scam: as long as you pay the extra, you'll get your passport.

We didn't have any other option but we feel like we've been held to ransom.

Wendy Grant, British national living in Singapore

In January 2014 I gave birth to my youngest daughter and applied for her passport as guided by the government website - which is now sent and processed directly to the UK. The advice on the website at the time of sending was that the passport would be processed within four to six weeks.

I waited 10 weeks to receive a passport for my daughter. During that time I made numerous calls to the passport office and no one could tell me when her application would be reviewed or when we would receive the documents.

Because of the delay, we had to change our flights twice. It is ridiculous that it took so long. Fortunately the High Commission here got involved and wrote to the passport office in Liverpool. That might have speeded up the process for us, I don't know. A lot of my friends have also gone through the same delays.

Alice Carr, British national living in Hong Kong

I started an online application for my baby on 28 March. The date the passport office recorded receipt of the application was 17 April. I still don't know how long it will be until I receive it.

I think the Hong Kong High Commission here issued a travel warning for expats needing new passports. We're planning to travel at the beginning of July and was hoping that was plenty of time. We don't know if we're going to be able to catch our flight.

It's not just the length of time we've been waiting, it's the uncertainty. You get limited maternity leave and you want to use it to visit family and friends. That's not unreasonable.

Nick de Jong, Cheltenham, UK

Image copyright Nick de Jong
Image caption Nick de Jong with his son

My brother is getting married in Italy.

It was to be our first holiday together as a family. Me and my girlfriend and our son were due to fly out together.

I am tearing my hair out waiting for my girlfriend's passport. We applied all together six weeks ago and I received mine within three weeks and my son's in the same timescale.

We fly to Tuscany on Wednesday next week and my girlfriend still has not received hers. It now won't be here in time and we have no other options, she can't go, and neither can my son who is just under one-year-old.

We are outraged and disappointed. They have had way past their allotted time.

They have not offered us any solutions even though money is not an issue. We're at our wits end.

In the past I've been in the position before where I've been able to get a passport on the day.