Record 7 million passports processed this year as Brits embrace post-pandemic travel

A surge in passport applications is a result of two years of restricted international travel   (Pexels)
A surge in passport applications is a result of two years of restricted international travel (Pexels)

More than seven million British passport applications have been processed this year - the most in 20 years - as Brits embrace travelling abroad in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

The Home Office said on Monday that more applications than ever before are being processed, with an average of almost 700,000 every month in 2022.

Between January and September a record 7.1 million applications were processed, already a huge increase from the 4.9 million processed in 2021, four million in 2020 and the highest number recorded since 2002.

The surge is a result of the pandemic, during which people delayed their application for a passport because of international travel restrictions, the Home Office said.

Figures show more than five million people delayed their applications throughout 2020 and 2021.

But this year Brits prepared for a jet-setting summer, with more than a million passport applications processed in both March and May alone.

UK residents made nine million visits overseas in August, an increase of 31 percent from the previous month, ONS provisional figures reveal.

It’s slightly less than pre-pandemic levels, with visits down 22 per cent compared with August 2019, when 11.6 million were made.

Across July and August 80 percent of overseas visits were to European countries, with people going on holiday as the most common reason for travel.

Lengthy passport processing times casued headaches for holiday-goers across the UK over summer, with many forced to cancel their trips or not book any at all.

A cache of internal messages sent by officials, obtained by The Times, said that the Passport Office’s systems were not “fit for purpose” and the delays were “the beginning of a lengthy scenario”.

A whistleblower told The Times in May that a new digital passport system rolled out at the beginning of the pandemic was not functioning properly, leaving officials using an older, slower method that is “deeply flawed”.

But the Passport Office claimed at the time that the new IT system “enabled passport applications to be processed more quickly, with fewer manual interventions”.

To keep up with “unprecedented demand” for passports since the pandemic, the Home Office revealed on Monday it has hired an extra 1,200 employees since April 2021.

It has also contracted more delivery companies to return passports, increased availability for urgent service appointments and extended working hours across HM Passport Offices’ public counters.

Passports are currently taking up to 10 weeks to process. The standard time was set in April 2021 when the surge in applications became apparent. Prior to this, applicants could expect to wait three weeks for their new passport.

Between January and October 2022, 95.2 percent of applications were processed within the 10 week standard, the Home Office said.

For applications that have taken longer than 10 weeks, and where the customer can evidence that they are due to travel within the next fortnight, their case has been prioritised at no additional cost, the Home Office said.

The HM Passport Office anticipates 9.5 million passport applications will be made by the end of the year.