Can you apply for a new passport during lockdown?

The Independent has revealed that almost 200,000 children’s passports are running out each month – with no routine renewals happening. A further 300,000-plus adults are affected. These are the key questions and answers.

What are the rules on passport validity?

To travel anywhere abroad apart from the Republic of Ireland, you need a valid passport. For the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, the US and many other countries, your passport is valid for travel up to and including the date of expiry – though this will change for European destinations at the end of 2020.

Other countries may stipulate additional validity. For example Egypt and Turkey demand passports have at least six months to run on the day of arrival.

While no passport is legally needed for a visit to Ireland, some transport operators may demand one.

My passport is running out. What can I do?

The Home Office, which oversees the UK Passport Office, says: “Do not apply unless you need a passport urgently for compassionate reasons, for example if a family member has died, or for government business.”

You can call the Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000 to see if you qualify.

Does wanting to go on holiday count?

No. “If you do not meet this criteria and you choose to apply, please be aware that our service standards are currently suspended and we are unable to guarantee when a passport will be issued,” the UK Passport Office told a reader of The Independent.

The normal waiting time is no more than three weeks.

But since no one can travel abroad for fun until lockdown is lifted, what’s the problem?

The problem is likely to be a surge in applications for passports, with pent-up demand particularly acute because of the main holiday season approaching.

Can I get a quicker renewal if I turn up?

For adult passports, yes – though you have to phone first to get an appointment at a Passport Office. The online service costs £177 and requires at least two days’ notice. “Apply, pay and book an appointment online.” says the Passport Office. “The earliest you can get an appointment is two days from when you apply.” If successful, you get the passport at the end of your interview.

For paper applications: “You’ll usually get your new passport four hours after your appointment, but you might get it the next day if your appointment is in the afternoon. You’ll be told when you’ll get your passport when you choose your appointment time.”

Note that this is purely for renewals, not new applications.

Will it speed things up if I say I need to get a visa before my trip?

No, unless there is an urgent compassionate reason for your journey.

If I can’t get a passport renewed in time, can I postpone my trip?

No. All travel operators stress that it is the traveller’s responsibility to have the appropriate documentation.

Can I claim from travel insurance?

No. The standard wording is that insurers will refuse “any claim arising from your failure to obtain the required passport or visa”.

My child has never been abroad and needs a passport

That places you in an even trickier position, because the process is more complex and tends to be slower.

Almost everyone with a valid passport will have found it useless for the past month. When this is all over, will we get an extension or some money back?

Almost certainly not.

When I get a new passport, what colour will it be?

Burgundy, probably. The roll-out of the new EU-made blue passports has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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