In Depth

Passport renewal: how it works and the new rules

Backlog of applications causes delays as UK citizens face new travel rules following Brexit

UK passport

With restrictions on overseas travel easing, now’s the time to check whether your passport is in need of renewal. 

In 2020, with much of the world in lockdown, around four million people in the UK applied for passports compared to a “normal year” where around seven million applications would typically be processed, according to government reports

The “backlog” has led the Passport Office to warn of significant delays this year. If those people who put off their application last year choose to send it now, the service could be “inundated with requests”, Which? warns. 

Here’s what you need to know about renewing your passport and how Brexit has impacted travel rules for UK citizens. 

How to renew a passport 

Passports require renewal every ten years, and UK government advice is to expect the passport renewal process to take up to ten weeks. The process is quicker online than by post. 

Submitting a renewal application online will cost £75.50. You will need a digital photo, a credit or debit card and your current passport in order to complete the passport service form

To complete the process by post, you will need to collect the application form from a post office that offers the Check and Send service,or by calling the Passport Adviceline. You will need to provide two identical printed photos. The paper application process costs £85, payable by cheque to ‘Her Majesty’s Passport Office’ or by credit or debit card.  

The Post Office also offers a Check and Send process which can help to ensure your application fulfils all necessary requirements before being submitted. The service costs an additional £16 and both digital and paper applications can be processed, but you will need to check whether your nearest branch offers the service

Can I get a passport urgently? 

If you need your passport to be renewed within the next three weeks rather than the standard waiting period, you can apply for an urgent application by booking an appointment at a passport office. You can expect an appointment to last up to 30 minutes. 

You can either apply using the Online Premium service or the 1 week Fast Track service. The online option, which can only be used to renew an adult passport issued after 31 December 2001, costs £177 for a standard passport. Applicants must book an appointment, take a digital photo, fill out the forms online and pay ahead of collecting the passport at the appointment. 

Renewal of a standard adult passport using the one-week service will cost £142, and £122 for a child. Application forms must be collected from a post office, and an appointment booked and paid for online. You will need to take two printed passport photos, your completed application forms, and any relevant supporting documents. 

What are the rules for passport photos? 

You will need to provide digital photos every time you renew your passport, either by providing a digital photo for an online application, or printed photos for a paper application. In both cases, the photo must have been taken within the last month.  

Photos must be clear and in focus, in colour, and contain no other objects or people. Photos that appear to have ‘red eye’ will not be accepted, and backgrounds must be plain and light coloured.  

Nothing should cover your face, and there should be no shadows. Glasses should be removed if possible, as well as head coverings, unless worn for religious or medical reasons. 

Digital photos should be at least 600 pixels wide and 750 pixels in height. The file must be at least 50KB but no more than 10MB.  

Print photos should be 45mm high and 35mm wide, the standard size for images printed at UK photo booths. The images must be printed to a professional standard, and not be creased or torn. When posted, the images should be separated from one another, and not attached to the application form.  

What has changed because of Brexit? 

“Before Brexit, a UK passport only needed to be valid for the duration of the visit,” notes the Daily Mail.Now, in order to travel into EU countries, anyone travelling on a UK passport must now make sure that the document is valid for at least the next six months. Burgundy EU passports are still valid for travel.  

If your current passport had additional months added to it as a result of renewing your previous one before it expired, these additional months will not count towards the six-month validity period necessary for EU travel. 

Following the end of the transition period, pet passports issued in the UK will no longer be valid for cats, dogs or ferrets. Instead, an animal health certificate will need to be acquired for each trip from Great Britain to an EU country or Northern Ireland.   

What if I change my name? 

If you change your name, you will need a new passport before travelling abroad. This is also true if you change gender, or change your appearance to the extent that it cannot be recognised from your current passport photo. Only in the last instance would your application need to be countersigned.  

If you are updating your name on your passport because of marriage or civil partnership, you can apply for a new passport up to three months before your ceremony. This passport cannot be used until after the ceremony, and you will need to send a separate form along with your application. 

What if I lose my passport?  

If your passport is lost or stolen you will need to cancel it as soon as you can. A cancellation can also be processed by a third party, if you are unable to complete the process yourself. 

When reporting a stolen passport to the local police, ask for a written report which may be needed by the British Embassy or your travel insurer, the Post Office notes.

If you aren’t able to get a passport in time for your planned return, you can apply for an Emergency Travel Document which will allow you to travel through a maximum of five countries to your final destination. Your planned route details will be printed on the document and it will be kept by border officials if you are returning to the UK.

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