Mary O’Riordan with her grandchildren
In February, Mary O’Riordan applied to renew her grandson Alex’s passport, but due to a series of delays, the application was put on hold. Having waited more than three months, the family looks set to miss their stay at Turkey’s 5-star Mukarnas Spa and Resort.
The UK’s passport service has been under enormous pressure due to a surge in post-Covid holidays and staff shortages.
HM Passport Office estimates it will receive 9.5 million applications this summer, Teesside Live narration.
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said he has received “a large number” of calls from worried voters and is urging people to contact the Government’s passport advice line while allowing “little at least 10 weeks” when applying for their passport.
Mary, from Normanby, applied to renew her passport on 8 February, submitting a photo and old passport of Alex following the instructions on the Government website.
After several “long phone calls” to the Passport Office, they were told on May 11 that a birth certificate was required, along with written permission from Alex’s parents, 15.
Mary offered to take the birth certificate directly to the Durham office, where she said they were told ‘no’.
She claims the department has said it won’t review it for three weeks – which would put them beyond the departure date for the May 30 holiday.
Now Mary, 62, says she’s finished her smarts.
“It brought us to tears,” Mary said, “they didn’t listen, I had my phone cut off, they put the phone down.
“You get something from one person, then the other person says ‘don’t do it,’ it sucks. We offered to go to Durham and get it, we just didn’t know what to do.
“They said ‘we have to book [your application] wait ‘. We received a letter from my daughter and her birth certificate. But it’s an innovation, they’re not even required.
“We got an email saying we’re canceling your application. I called and said ‘please don’t do that, you’ll get your birth certificate tomorrow’.
“They’re saying ‘you didn’t submit 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. It seems like these people don’t know what they’re doing.
“Who’s going to be responsible for this? I didn’t lose £3,000 for something that wasn’t my fault, we did everything right. My grandson said ‘it’s serious isn’t it Nana’,’ I said.” yes son.” His face fell, all joy was gone from him.
“My friends had to pay for fast tracking, half of them arrived on time, half didn’t. It was just a nightmare. There was no way I could go and take a kid with me. grandson and leave the other.”
The family has been told to have emailed an ‘expedited service’ to the UK, for which the department said she will not be charged – she is now awaiting a response.
A spokesperson for HM Passport Office said employees are “working tirelessly” to address the record demand.
They said: “As of April 2021, we have explicitly stated that people should wait up to 10 weeks when applying for a passport due to increased demand.
“The vast majority of applications are completed within 10 weeks, with the latest figures showing 90% completed within six weeks.
“But we can’t compromise with security checks and people should check in with plenty of time before travelling.”
More than a million new passport applications were completed in March, they added, having boosted staff by 500 since April last year, with plans to hire 700 more.
However, Mr McDonald, Labor MP for Middlesbrough, said the Government was not “putting out any mitigation plans” – despite “anticipating the situation” which had caused unnecessary anxiety among commuters elected.
He said: “The government has acknowledged that it is having a hard time processing passport applications that are being submitted as travel restrictions have been eased and people are booking holidays that have been waiting since long, wedding and family reunion.
“We’re doing everything we can to support Middlesbroughs who are having issues with their passport applications, especially if they’re getting close to their departure date.”
* Anyone with questions regarding a particular passport application can call the Passport Advice Line on 0300 222 0000.
Further details on the office’s emergency services can be found, available from all seven public counters of the HM Passport Office in the UK, THIS.