Previously overseas applications were handled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices in seven different regional processing centres being Dusseldorf, Honk Kong, Madrid, Paris, Pretoria, Washington and Wellington. This was transferred gradually over a period ranging from December 2013 to March 2014 to a central application processing centre in Liverpool.
This has resulted in serious delays for passport renewals for those living overseas who are now having to wait for at least six weeks, this is significantly longer than applicants who live in the UK. British passport holders in Hong Kong have even complained about waits of up to three months. A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Passport Office has cited the reason for the delay for overseas applications as opposed to applicants in the UK as due to additional security checks.
The result of this has been that over the busy summer period significant numbers of expats have had to cancel their holidays at great expense and for those who regularly travel abroad for work are experiencing considerable inconvenience, however the Home Office has now conceded that it will look at claims on a case-by-case basis where individuals have been financially hit by these delays.
In order to cope with the crisis the Home Office has confirmed the availability of a free one-year passport extension which can be obtained at your nearest British embassy. This however still poses problems for those who do not have an Embassy nearby. Parents that need to undertake emergency travel will also be able to apply for emergency travel documents for their children.
Whilst the delays are still occurring it is recommended that you call the Passport Office if you are due to travel a couple of weeks before you go as they are allowing people to upgrade to the fast track service for free depending on circumstance.