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Passport Office strike: How will five-week walkout affect your travel plans?

Passport Office strike: How will five-week walkout affect your travel plans?

More than one million passport applications could be stuck in a bottleneck when HM Passport Office staff strike for five weeks from the start of April.

In a “significant escalation” of a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union says more than 1,000 members will walk out at all seven offices in England, Wales and Scotland from 3 April to 5 May. Staff at the Passport Office in Belfast may join the strike later.

The union says the walkout will have a “significant impact” on the delivery of passports as the summer approaches.

What will it mean for holidaymakers? These are the key questions and answers.

Was this a surprise?

Not entirely. On Thursday 16 March, there was industrial action at a number of HM Passport Offices, with walk-outs hitting routine work and urgent appointments. The PCS union said production of passports stopped at the Newport office, while interviews for urgent passports were cancelled at Glasgow and Durham.

In pursuit of a better pay deal, the union is seeking to make its civil service strikes as effective and high profile as as possible – and with more people planning to travel abroad than at any time since Covid, holidaymakers are obvious targets.

What effect will the strike have?

Since the surge in passport applications a year ago, which led to some very long delays and people missing holidays, the issuing process has been working quite smoothly.

HM Passport Office still insists travellers allow 10 weeks for passport applications, even if they are straightforward renewals. But according to the National Audit Office, by last autumn the average processing time for passports was 12 days for straightforward applications and 29 days for more complex cases. But demand is steadily rising as the Easter holidays approach, with summer set to be the busiest since 2019.

At peak times – including April – HM Passport Office can receive 250,000 applications per week. During the strike, I calculate that more than one million passport applications are likely. Some of them will be urgent cases, but it may be that the Fast Track option is closed down so available effort can be deployed on processing “normal” applications.

What should travellers do?

Panic about the prospect of long waits could trigger a surge of unnecessary applications and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That…

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