Be Careful When Applying Last Minute
Many holiday booking sites, travel agents and airlines advertise last minute deals to grab a bargain and save money booking last minute is often the most desirable way to travel. The problem that many travellers are facing is they book these fantastic deals and realise that their passport has expired, is damaged or it has been lost in a move.
This has led to a large increase in passengers being caught out losing time, money and sometimes their entire holiday. There are plenty of ways to avoid this from happening to you and help and advice on what you can do if you have booked travel within the next 4 weeks and need an urgent passport application.
Before booking your travel
If you are looking at booking a family holiday or any travel plans throughout the year it is important to remember to check not only yours but your family's passports before you making any booking. Below we have listed several things that you need to check on your passport before making any travel arrangements.
Has your passport expired?
You can find the expire date on the photo page of your passport and it is 6th down from the top. If you have checked your expiry date and it is still in date on date you are due to travel, the next thing you need to look at is how much time is left on it. You may or may not know that many countries require you to have at least 6 months left on your passport to travel. If you are unsure please follow the steps below:
1) Visit the foreign and commonwealth website (fco.gov.uk)
2) Click the link on the homepage titled "Travel Advice"
3) You will now see a list of countries simply enter your travel destination in to the search box for example "Spain"
4) Once searched you will come to the overview page for your chosen country, simply click the ''Entry Requirements'' link this will show you some of the most important information about both Passport validity and any further restrictions for entering the chosen country.
Is your passport damaged?
It is important to know weather your passport is damaged or it just has reasonable wear and tear. If you are unsure we have a list below that will clearly show you which is which and weather or not you need to renew your passport.
Damage may include any of the following -
Personal details are indecipherable (non-readable).
The laminate has lifted enough to allow the possibility of photo substitution.
Discoloration to the bio-data page.
Chemical or ink spillage on (any page).
Missing or detached pages
The chip or antenna shows through the endpaper on the back cover for the new style e-passports
The chip has been identified as damaged following investigation or you have been told the chip is faulty during a border-check.
Wear and tear includes the following -
Making sure there are no stains or water marks on any pages
All the information is clear and readable
The laminate on your photo page is securely in place
There are no damaged or missing pages
The chip is in place and undamaged
The passport binding is secured and not disintegrated
Check before you apply
If you checked your passport and you do need to apply or renew your passport there are few things you need to look at before you make any application for your passport. One of the first things you need to think about is when you want to travel, if you are travelling within the next 4 weeks then you need to careful that if you apply using the standard application that will you actually receive your passport in time to travel.
Travelling in 4 weeks or more
If your travel arrangements are 4 weeks or more away than you can apply using a standard application either online or by post. We are currently in peek season for passport applications and the average waiting time at the moment is 2-4 weeks.
By post (2-4 week service)
If you wish to renew your passport by filling in a hand-written form you will need to obtain a Standard Passport Renew Form from your local Post Office branch (please note that this must be a large town branch, smaller sub-branches in local shops will not often stock these forms).
Once you have filled in your form you will need to send it in the post using the pre-addressed envelope provided with the form. There are three ways by which to send this as follows:
• Use a local post box and send using the pre-paid 2nd class envelope.
• Send via recorded or special delivery (this service will incur further cost from the Post Office and is only recommended if you would like the supporting documents enclosed to be tracked)
• Using the Post Office Check & Send Service this means that the Post Office will check your form and supporting documents to confirm that what you have filled in/supplied is correct. They will charge a fee for this service and please note that this will not speed up your application in any way, it will be the same time-scales as sending via 2nd class post.
Online (2-4 week service)
You can apply for your passport or renew an existing passport online here: Apply/Renew Online
When applying online it will ask you to fill in various personal details including your full name, address and your previous passport details (if applicable). In certain circumstances such as first time and child applications, details or parent and grandparent's details will also be requested.
Once your application has been submitted online you will be sent your Declaration Form via email, once received you will need to print, sign and date this form and send it in the post (along with any required supporting documents such as photos, birth certificates and/or proof of name changes).
Travelling in less than 4 weeks
If you need your passport back within 4 weeks then using the services above will not be suitable for your needs as you run the risk of it not being returned in time. To avoid this we always recommend never booking any travel plans until you have received your passport but if you have already made plans then you can use the urgent services.
Urgent services (1-7 days)
If you need your passport renewed or replaced urgently or you are planning on travelling within the next 4 weeks, then we recommend that you use one of the urgent services. This means that you will need to book an appointment in advanced at one of the local Passport Offices listed below:
London Passport Office
Peterborough Passport Office
Newport Passport Office
Liverpool Passport Office
Durham Passport Office
Glasgow Passport Office
Belfast Passport Office
Services on offer include:
• 1 Day Premium Service (Individuals aged 16 or over)
• 7 Day Fast-Track (Children (Renewal or First Time), Lost, Stolen or Damaged Passports)
You can book an appointment by clicking the relevant office above, or Book Urgent Appointment
Since 2016 HM Passport Office now requires all urgent appointments to be booked and paid for in advance, this reduces queuing times and missed appointments to avoid delays on the day.
Once your appointment is booked online, you will receive confirmation via email and text message this will include details of your appointment date and time, along with additional information on what to bring with you to the appointment.
How long will it take?
When attending the appointment, it will last approximately 15-20 minutes, if you have opted for the 1 Day Premium Service then you will be given a receipt and will be asked to return after 4 hours to pick up your new passport. If you have opted for the 7 Day Fast-Track Service then the new passport will be delivered to you within 7 days via secure courier service (please note that this 7-day period does include weekends however bank holidays may affect this time-frame).
Changing from a standard application to urgent service
Many customers will often use the standard application process only to realise that their passport may not arrive in time to travel or in fact their travel date is sooner than they expected, due to this they then wish to use an urgent service, however this can be a problem.
IMPORTANT! If you have already completed your application online or by post but now wish to use an urgent service you will first need to cancel your original (online or postal) application first. Please do not try to apply again or use any urgent services until you have done this first.
How to cancel a standard/postal service
In order to cancel an existing postal application, you will be required to withdrawn the application in writing. You will need to write a short covering letter including the reference number from the Post Office receipt or the reference from the top of the Declaration Form if submitted online. This letter will need to explain that you would like to withdrawn the application made in error and send to the following address -
Belfast HM Passport Office
PI BOX 1401
Once you have sent this letter you will need to call HM Passport Office directly to confirm it has been cancelled prior to attending an appointment.
Fast-Track services only
When using the urgent services it is important to know which type of passport you are applying for as certain passport types are only available on the Fast-Track 1 Week Service and not on the Premium 1 Day Service.
If you are applying for any of the below you are only able to use the Fast-Track service.
• Child's passport
If you are unsure please check our urgent services page.
Don't be caught out this Summer, be prepared with your passport application and don't apply online unless you are sure you have more than 4 weeks before you travel.
Need more information?
Talk to the Passport Office team
Lines open 8am-8pm
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