Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Passport Nightmare

Recently it has been splashed all over the media about the passport nightmare facing thousand of holidaymakers in the UK, we were one of the unlucky ones caught up in this. I totally understand that you should leave plenty of time for a passport to arrive and we thought that we had but here is what happened.

The sought after passport

My dad had arranged to go on holiday during the May half term with his partner however she could not go with him so he decided to take Chloe, my oldest daughter instead. She has been abroad before but she had always wanted to go to Spain as she has never been and she has not had a holiday for a few years now. 

So in April, my dad booked for Chloe to go away with him to Spain and we applied to renew Chloe's passport as it had run out. We checked how long a child renewal would take and we were told three week's as we had just over six week's until she travelled we thought we would pay a little bit extra to send the passport off check and send via the post office. So we sent the passport off and I received a text a couple of day's later to say the application had been received and we should receive it within three weeks.

Three weeks came and went and still no passport, there had been no mention of delays on the news or anything at this point. I rang the passport helpline and got through to someone in a call centre who informed me the passport was in the final stages and would be issued soon but they would request a call back within 48 hours from Durham passport office, where her passport was getting issued from. I waited for the callback, it never came so I rang again and this time was told that the passport was in examination and had been since they received it and they would request another callback, so I waited, still no callback. Once again I rang the helpline and was told that passport had not even been looked at and we were unlikely to receive it back in time and they would request another callback.

I am still waiting for a call back now over two months later. 

By this point, they had the passport for four weeks and we had two weeks until she travelled. So I looked on the internet to see how long a passport should take and I came across a thread on Netmums which was full of people saying they were having the same problems with passports taking ages. Some people had even missed holidays due to this and they advised to contact your local MP who can contact the passport office direct on your behalf. 

So I emailed my local MP and I received an email back a few hours later saying that they would contact the passport office and look into things for me. I also found a number for Durham passport office online, so I rang them direct the next day and was told that the passport had not even been looked at yet as there was a backlog. Luckily the MP had got the passport put in a queue to be fast-tracked which would cost us extra but that they work on the date of travel order so not to expect a call to renew until few days before travel, but that a child renewal passport was the easiest and straightforward of all passports.

By now I was worrying that we would never get the passport back in time and it was in the news about the massive delays the passport office were facing. I really did lose all hope of getting things sorted. However, three days before Chloe had to travel we received a phone call from the passport office who said that they had looked at the passport and if I paid £60.50 extra they would fast-track the printing and we could go and pick the passport up the next day. I happily paid the money there and then on the phone and the next day we travelled to Durham which is about 45 minutes away from where we live to collect the passport. 

When we arrived at the passport office there were huge qeues of people outside waiting to be seen, luckily as I had an appointment I could go straight through. I walked in told them I was there to collect a passport and I was handed it over after a few security checks. I couldn't believe we finally had a passport at last.

Once we had the passport we told Chloe she was going on holiday as we had not wanted to tell her until we were sure her passport would be back in time, she was over the moon. She had an amazing time, she went to Marbella in Spain for a week and loved it. My dad said he never saw her as she was just in the children's club all day and the only time he saw her was meal times and night time. She came back with a lovely suntan and had made lots of new friends and made some amazing memory's she will keep forever.

We were lucky that we managed to get things sorted with the passport. I totally agree that you should leave plenty of time to get a passport, especially in the summer as it is a busy time. But we were told the passport would only take three weeks and it took us almost six weeks and an extra £60.50 and that was for a straightforward child's renewal. After hearing all the stories on the news, yes I have sympathy for some of the people who have missed out on holidays two of our neighbours have also been caught up in the passport backlog too. But some of the people on the news are going mad because they have missed a holiday but they sent for a first adult passport with 4 weeks to spare when you are told a first adult passport will take at least six weeks and you need to attend an interview etc . so I think some common sense is needed when applying for a passport and I will make sure that all of are passports are in date. I never want to go through all that worry and hassle again in getting a passport.

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