Delays in Passport applications continue into 2023
Staff working from home contributed to long delays in issuing new passports, which caused some holidaymakers to miss their flights this summer.
An investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) said allowing staff from the Passport Office to work from home led to a delay in completing a new digital system for processing applications.
This meant the system couldn’t handle the sudden rise in post-pandemic passport applications, so staff had to process them by hand, which was slower.
The system was due to have been finished by March this year, but it is not now expected to be totally up and running until 2025/26 according to a report in The Telegraph.
The NAO has warned the Passport Office that it should expect a similar level of passport applications next year.
The Passport Office is expecting applications from at least three million people who didn’t renew or apply for passports during the pandemic, added The Telegraph. It said this means there could be 9.8 million applications next year, 300,000 more than this year and a third more than in a ‘normal’ year.
The NAO said the Passport Office must ‘learn the lessons from this year’.
The delays in issuing new passports were compounded by staff shortages, the failure of attempts to alert the public to allow 10 weeks for applications, and its telephone helpline subsequently becoming overwhelmed, it said.
The Home Office told The Telegraph it had worked hard to rectify the problems that caused the delay. It added that allowing staff to work from home while social distancing measures were in force allowed it to continue to process passports throughout the pandemic.