LONDON: A backlog of more than 400,000 passport applications has mounted due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, figures show. Home Office minister Baroness Williams said reduced staffing to allow social distancing meant forms were taking longer to process.
She said steps were being taken to increase capacity after travel restrictions were eased. But those applying may have to wait longer than the usual three weeks.
Asked how long it would take to clear the backlog, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast he did not know – “it’s not quite my area”, adding that the Home Office was working hard to clear it.
The Passport Office is advising only people going away before September or those travelling on compassionate grounds should apply now for a passport.
In a written Parliamentary answer about the backlog, Baroness Williams said the Passport Office “continues to operate at reduced staffing levels so its people can continue to socially distance”.
She added: “It is therefore taking longer than usual to process passport applications. “As part of its contingency arrangements, HM Passport Office is rapidly increasing its capacity for processing passport applications, in line with public health guidance, which will help to ensure it continues to meet the travel needs of its customers.”
As of 7 July, she said, work was under way on about 126,000 passport applications – 31% higher than at the same period last year.
The minister pointed out a further 284,000 applications would “need to be worked through in the coming weeks once initial documentation has been received and allocated”. This represented an increase of 172% from last year, she said.