Home Secretary Acts At Last On Expat Passport Misery

Red-faced British Home Secretary has had to dole out automatic 12-month extensions to expat passports after a huge mountain of applications are await processing by civil servants.

The back-log in dealing with passport renewals and applications has upset the lives of thousands of expats who found themselves trapped and unable to travel because their passports have expired.

Not only has the crisis hit expats needing to travel or relocate for work, but their families are also suffering the same problems.

Home Secretary Theresa May has tried to stem the tide of criticism against how a queue of more than 30,000 applications was allowed to stack up without anyone taking action.

To help, she has agreed the automatic extension to give officials time to deal with the paperwork.

Free fast-track for holidaymakers

The pile started stacking more than three months ago and is likely to grow before improving as holidaymakers book last-minute deals.

Now, holiday paperwork will be fast-tracked free of charge and expat families will have emergency travel documents issued to them.

However, the deal only applies to UK residents travelling until June 20, 2014 who are deemed to be without a passport through no fault of their own – which the Passport Office says means the application must have been with them for at least three weeks.

May explained to MPs that the problem arose because Passport Office executives underestimated the number of expat applications that would need processing on top of the day-to-day paperwork.

1,000 extra staff tackle paper mountain

She also announced more than 1,000 extra staff would be reassigned to deal with the backlog.

The difficulties appear to have started when passport processing was centralised by the Home Office in March and seven overseas passport centres run by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office were closed.

The burden of work renewing expat passports then shifted to the Home Office, and the systems in place to handle the huge volume of work snapped under the strain.

So far in 2014, more than 3 million British passports have been issued, while 465,000 renewals and applications for first passports are backed up in the Passport Office.

The Passport Office estimated closing the overseas offices for ‘efficiency’ would result in an extra 350,000 applications from expats in 2014 – a number that has already been exceeded.

May has also announced the Home Office has launched an internal inquiry to resolve the passport problems.

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