Big problems for expats and people needing British passport renewals

Some minor delays are now turning into a massive problem in the processing of British passports in the UK. It’s been an ongoing news item in the UK recently and is now affecting many British expats in Thailand. Authorities in the UK are blaming a rush to travel for the summer season and new Brexit-linked problems for British travellers heading to EU countries.

The Thaiger has been contacted numerous times in the past few days by disgruntled UK citizens who are having their stay in the Kingdom threatened by the delays, lost paperwork and outright mistakes.

One of the expats says they’ve tried to renew their daughter’s British passport and told it would take 10 to 11 weeks but that it’s already been 5 months and “they have no idea on where the documents even are”.

More than 20 other British citizens are now either heading back, or in the UK, trying to sort out their passports as they found it impossible to make anything happen through emails or through the British embassy in Thailand.

Barry, an expat from Phuket, has been in contact with The Thaiger for the past 3 months.

“They’ve been useless, it’s been so frustrating. I just got fed up after bashing my head against the bureaucracy for 3 months and booked a flight to fix it myself. Why do we have all these Embassies if they can’t do anything?”

Another British couple, currently living in Australia, have been told how they will probably have to cancel their wedding in the UK because of continued delays at the Passport Office. They would also have to allow 13 weeks for their baby’s British passport to arrive.

The problems and delays are now a worldwide problem for thousands of British citizens needing to sort out their passports. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg with residents now wanting to travel over the summer holidays, but can’t.

Already, thousands of families are face delayed or cancelled holidays the northern hemisphere summer. British MPs, contacted by hapless constituents, are describing the situation as an “absolute shambles”.

Meanwhile, the British Home Office is urging travellers to allow 10 weeks for passport processing, but acknowledge that even the 10 week published delay is being “frequently breached”. Some applicants say they’ve been waiting up to 5 months.

Those travellers are complaining that nobody is answering the so-called helplines, unanswered emails. Even people using the premium-priced “fast track” service are having problems making appointments.

The Home Office says that more than 5 million people have applied for passports as the UK emerges from restrictions and lockdowns and the weather improves.

Adding to the pressure is the EU introducing post-Brexit rules that require British passports to have at least 3 months’ validity remaining, a change that has surprised many British citizens who were unaware of the change until they wanted to travel again.

The delays at the British end are having unintended fallout for expats around the world who need their passports for visa renewals in Thailand. At this stage Thai officials are showing little understanding of the problems at the British end of the paperwork nightmare and some expats have been forced to fly back to the UK to try and sort out their passport issues, at a time flight prices are soaring because of the rising fuel costs and inflation.

The British Home office acknowledges that up to 5 million people have faced passport delays.

“We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one as soon as possible. The vast majority of all passports applications are being dealt with well within 10 weeks.”

Obviously not.

SOURCE: The Guardian

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Tim Newton

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2011. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 42 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program (public radio Australia), presented over 11,000 radio news bulletins, 3,950 in Thailand alone, hosted 1050 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. He also reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand.