“It’s a mess”
A Geordie mother living abroad has slammed the HM Passport Office after facing an anxious wait to see if her daughter’s passport would arrive in time for a return trip.
Vicky Kirby, who swapped Howdon for France 16 years ago, applied for her daughter’s passport renewal on April 23 ahead of a return trip to Newcastle this summer. But the mother wondered if the family would return home after waiting more than two months for her daughter Amelie Kirby’s new passport to be processed.
The 10-year-old’s old passport was received by the UK Passport Office by registered post on May 6, but after that time Vicky said there was no update for say when the passport would be ready. Vicky, 44, thought British citizens abroad would face the same 10-week processing time as those in the UK.
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However, as the weeks passed, she said she was unable to get clarification or assistance from passport staff on the status of the application despite sending dozens of emails and spending hours on the phone. trying to reach someone who could help her.
“I come back to Newcastle about three or four times a year, but I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to come back. [in August] because of the HM Passport Office,” she said.
“The passport went into a processing black hole. The tracker wasn’t updated and there was no communication just because I’m a foreign citizen.
“I made the choice to leave the UK but I’m still a British citizen but I couldn’t even pay to escalate the claim because I’m overseas. I couldn’t be called back , I was on hold for hours and people hung up on me.”
Thanks to ChronicleLive raising awareness of her plight with the Home Office, Vicky said the new passport is now on its way to France, meaning it will arrive in time for the family’s trip to Toon on August 18. . However, Vicky hopes her story will raise awareness of similar situations that “thousands” of British expats face when renewing their passports.
“HM’s passport office is chaotic,” Vicky said.
“They are destroying people’s lives. There is a Facebook group called Passport Advice UK and you wouldn’t believe how many people are in the same situation.
“Missing a vacation is one thing – even if people save for years to go – but there are people who applied in December and are still waiting for their passport. There are people who lost their jobs in because of delays, people missing weddings and funerals. Everything you can imagine.”
She continued: “In the UK you have people walking through England to Durham or Liverpool trying to get their passports. I want my story to raise awareness for other people who are in this situation.
“The government needs to do something about this. I also want the government to put in place something for the overseas citizens who are passed on as if they don’t exist.”
HM Passport Office said processing times differ from country to country and in France the processing time is 11 weeks meaning the family’s passport renewal was completed within the allotted time.
He stressed that staff were working tirelessly to cope with record demand, with the team processing around three million passport applications between March and May 2022. The office has also hired 850 new staff since April 2021 and is in recruiting 350 more. people.
A spokesperson for the HM Passport Office said: “Applications from overseas are not subject to the same ten week processing time as standard UK applications and vary by country, which customers are made aware of at the time of their application.
“A passport will not be issued until all checks have been completed, and we advise you to wait to book your travel until you have your new passport.”