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In February, Mary O’Riordan applied for a passport renewal for her grandson Alex, but due to a series of delays, the application has been put on hold. Having waited more than three months, the family looks set to miss out on their holiday to Turkey’s five-star Mukarnas Spa and Resort.
The UK’s passport service has been under immense pressure due to a surge in post-Covid holidays and staff shortages.
HM Passport Office estimates they will receive 9.5 million applications this summer, reports Teesside Live.
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald says he has received a “large number” of calls from worried constituents and is urging people to contact the Government’s passport advice line while allowing “at least 10 weeks” when applying for their passport.
Mary, from Normanby, applied for a passport renewal on February 8, sending a photo and Alex’s old passport as per the instructions on the Government website.
After numerous “long phone calls” to the Passport Office, they were told on May 11 that a birth certificate was required, along with written permission from 15-year-old Alex’s parent.
Mary offered to deliver the birth certificate in person to the Durham office, to which she says they were told ‘no’.
She claims the department has said they won’t look at it for three weeks – which takes them beyond their departure date for the May 30 holiday.
Now Mary, 62, says she is at her wit’s end.
“It’s had us in tears,” Mary says, “they won’t listen, I’ve been cut off, they put the phone down.
“You get told something from one person then another says ‘don’t do that’, it’s terrible. We offered to go to Durham and pick it up, we just don’t know what to do
“They said ‘we had to put [your application] on hold’. We got a letter from my daughter and his birth certificate. But it’s a renewal, they’re not even required.
“We got an email to say we are cancelling your application. I rang up and said ‘please don’t do that, you are getting the birth certificate tomorrow’.
“They are saying ‘you didn’t send the application until April 25’, even though it’s there, tracked on the website in black and white, the application was received in February.
“I just want to sit and cry my eyes out. It seems as though these people don’t know what they’re doing.
“Who will be accountable for this? I’m not losing £3,000 for something that’s not my fault, we’ve done everything right. My grandson said ‘it’s serious Nana isn’t it’, I said ‘yes son’. His face just dropped, all the joy has gone out of him.
“My friends have had to pay for fast-tracking, half of them are getting theirs in time, half aren’t. It’s just a nightmare. No way can I go away and take one of my grandsons and leave the other one.”
The family has been told to email an ‘expedited service’ for the UK, which the department has said she won’t be charged for – now she’s waiting to hear back.
A HM Passport Office spokesperson said staff are “working tirelessly” to deal with record demand.
“Since April 2021, we’ve clearly stated that people should allow up to ten weeks when applying for their passport to factor in the increased demand, which has seen five million people delay their passport application due to the pandemic,” they said.
“The overwhelming majority of applications are completed within 10 weeks, with the latest figures showing 90% were completed within six weeks.
“But we cannot compromise security checks and people should apply with plenty of time prior to travelling.”
More than a million new passport applications were completed in March, they added, helped by increasing staff numbers by 500 since last April, with plans in place to recruit a further 700.
However Mr McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said the Government is not “putting any mitigating plans into place” – despite “predicting the situation” was causing unnecessary distress to constituents.
He said: “The Government has conceded it is struggling to process the passport applications being submitted now that travel restrictions have been eased and people are booking long-awaited holidays, weddings and reuniting with family.
“We are doing everything we can to assist Middlesbrough residents who are having issues with their passport applications, particularly if they are close to their flight date.”
* Anyone with a query relating to a specific passport application can call the Passport Advice Line on 0300 222 0000.
More details about the office’s urgent services, available from all HM Passport Office’s seven public counters in the UK, can be found HERE.
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