Britons are being forced to cancel their holidays due to wait times of over 10 weeks for passport renewals.
Delays at the Passport Office have mainly affected unwitting would-be travelers who submitted their passport applications via the standard service, only to be left waiting well beyond the advised 10-week window.
Under normal circumstances, travelers in the know would choose to book a fast-track in-person appointment at a passport office to secure a new document in under a week.
The one-week premium service costs £ 142, almost twice the price of the regular £ 75.50 service but has traditionally provided a lifeline for those who needed a passport in a hurry.
However, as Britons lose trust in the Passport Office’s standard service or simply realise that a 10-week wait will take them past their holiday departure date, people are turning en masse to the fast-track system, causing the gov.uk website to crash under the strain.
The booking website for a one-week fast-track appointment has faced intermittent outages for over a week.
An automated message on the booking page states: “We don’t have any appointments available at the moment. Please try again later. The service will reopen when more appointments are added.”
On the occasion that travelers are able to get past this error message, they will usually find that there are no appointments available.
However, i has managed to secure a fast-track passport slot. Read on to see how it is possible.
How do you secure a one week fast track passport appointment?
Similar to buying tickets to Glastonbury festival, securing a slot is a mix of being first on the website when the new appointments appear, mashing the refresh key and a little bit of luck.
The i tested the fast-track booking website at midnight, the time when websites often refresh with new information for the next day.
As expected, the gov.uk site added new appointments for all passport office locations across the country, and i was able to secure a reservation at the London office.
The single day’s worth of appointments, which appear at midnight, are for exactly three weeks in advance, suggesting that the site is updated every night with just one day’s worth of new slots.
i There may also be the chance of booking a slot nearer to the time in case of a cancellation.
Can you break down the booking process for me?
What you’ll need to hand
- Credit or debit card
- Laptop or mobile phone
- Full name, address and other details of passport applicant
How we managed to secure a fast track passport appointment
- Visit the website www.gov.uk/get-a-passport-urgently/1-week-fast-track-service. Here you will find a link that says “Book an Appointment and Pay by Card”. Click this link, or visit the website directly with this link passportappointment.service.gov.uk/outreach/publicbooking.ofml
- At midnight, start refreshing passportappointment.service.gov.uk/outreach/publicbooking.ofml. You should see that the website, which usually says “Sorry, this service is unavailable”, is now down entirely and no longer displays an apology message. This is a good sign and means that the website is being updated with new booking slots.
- Keep refreshing the web page for up to around ten minutes. You are waiting until the error page saying “Sorry, this service is unavailable” returns. Once it does, this means that new slots have been made available.
- If you keep refreshing this page, you should eventually get through to the booking page.
- At this point, follow all the steps required to book and pay for an appointment. You should find that there are appointments available on one day in exactly three weeks’ time at all passport offices around the UK.
- The website may appear to fail to load at certain points, or take a long time to load the next step. Try not to panic and refresh the page as this could lose you your slot.
- Eventually, you should reach the payment page (this can also load slowly) but once your payment is processed the slot is yours.
What is the earliest I can get a passport with the fast track system?
The quickest turnaround time for securing a passport is usually around one month from the time you secure an appointment.
New appointments become available for a day three weeks in advance, at midnight every night. Add to that the up-to-one-week wait for the fast-track passport and you are looking at a total wait time of no more than a month for your new document.
This means it is already too late for travelers hoping to get away for the half term holidays. If you secure a slot after midnight on Thursday 5 May then you could still get away for the Platinum Jubilee weekend on Friday 3 June.
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