The Passport Office has said there was a “significant drop” in applications last year – but now Britons are rushing to get their passports renewed ahead of travel restrictions lifting this summer. The Passport Office usually processes seven million applications a year, but in 2020 there were just four million.
Following Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, which should see international travel restrictions lift in June, the Passport Office is bracing itself for a huge spike in applications again.
Britons are being warned of waits of up to 10 weeks.
Director General of Her Majesty’s Passport Office, Abi Tierney, warned: “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.“
The Passport Office will be sending text messages to Britons whose passports are nearing expiration to remind them to renew in the coming weeks.
This comes at the same time as Mr Johnson’s announcement earlier this week that a traffic light system will be used when foreign travel is allowed to resume in May.
Instead of the current ban, Mr Johnson has said that the Government will put countries on red, amber, and green lists, depending on specific requirements.
The Government will confirm a country’s safety based on the number of coronavirus cases, the success of its vaccination programme, and the prevalence of variants.
People travelling to and from green countries will be able to do so without having to quarantine, but they will still have to take three COVID-19 tests.
However, aviation chiefs have expressed concerns that the testing requirement could price many people out of holidays abroad.
Mr Johnson hinted in an announcement yesterday cheap lateral flow tests could be used instead of more expensive laboratory-based PCR tests.
The Prime Minister said: “We’re going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible.
“I do want to see international travel start up again. We have to be realistic. A lot of the destinations that we want to go to at the moment are suffering a new wave of the illness, of COVID, as we know.
“We can’t do it immediately, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve given up on May 17. We will be saying as much as we can, as soon as we can, about international travel.”
Mr Johnson continued: “I know how impatient people are to book their holidays if they possibly can but I think we just have to be prudent at this stage.”
It was reported by the Mail on Sunday last weekend that some European countries, such as Greece, Portugal, and Malta could be added to the UK’s green list.
Other countries that are likely to be given a green status are the US, the United Arab Emirates, Barbados, and Israel.
Holidaymakers travelling to and from countries on the amber list will have to self-isolate at home for 10 days on return, and take three COVID-19 tests.
Meanwhile, tourists visiting countries on the red list will have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel, and again receive three coronavirus tests.