The rush for new and renewed passports was well reported as COVID restrictions were being lifted around the world months ago. The volume of applications actually surged late last year, yet the passport crush continues today.
For Brits, the HM Passport Office last month reported a backlog of 550,000 applications. Hundreds of extra staff were put on to help clear the backlog and one announcement by the office noted that 60,000 applications were being cleared each week, yet delays continue.
At this stage the HM Passport Office recommends people to allow up to 10 weeks processing time. It may take longer.
The office has came under heavy fire from MPs who argued that the HMPO was insufficiently prepared to deal with the large influx of applications, after 400,000 passports expired at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only in April 2021 did the Passport Office move from a three to a 10-week processing window to manage the increased demand, reports the BBC.
Stephen Kinnock, the shadow minister for immigration, has criticised the government for not intervening sooner despite it knowing, he says, that the Passport Office was underperforming, the BBC added.
Australians are in the same boat, with the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) facing unprecedented demand for new and renewed passports. There has been plenty of criticism for the delays, with Australians waiting months for passports to be issued despite hundreds of extra staff being put on to help cope with the load.
The Phuket News has been told that the wait for Australians is currently also about nine to 10 weeks; maybe longer or shorter, depending on the application. Applications with missing or incomplete information only delay the process further.
Expats staying in Phuket on one-year visas need to think so much further ahead than that, at least 15 months, in order to avoid being caught out. Any foreigner looking to renew a one-year permit to stay in December better start thinking now.
If the foreigner’s passport is set to expire before the full one-year permit-to-stay is used, the foreigner will need a new passport in order to submit their annual renewal. A 10-week wait will mean that even if they submit their application this coming week they will not get their new passport until early December. That’s how tight the timeline is for a one-year permit-to-stay-renewal to be submitted more than two months from now.
Meanwhile, travellers are being urged to not book their holidays until they have their new passport. That makes it very difficult to plan and book holidays during Phuket’s peak tourism period at the end of the year, when the weather is perfect for visitors.
At this stage, the one group that looks likely to benefit out of the passport jam are last-minute travel booking platforms. Let’s see how they cope at the end of the year.