The cautionary tale begins
My grandson’s British passport was due to expire in December 2022. We decided to help him apply for a renewal. We went to our rather helpful local Post Office to get his application verified, which indeed it was. It was duly sent by registered post to the Passport Office (or agency or whatever it is called now). Thus began a cautionary tale.
It was received and signed for on 8 November 2012 and returned to us, renewed, less than one week later, despite industrial disputes at the Passport Office and the Royal Mail. The Passport Office no longer uses the mail to send passports. They use a courier service provided by TNT, and if they are ‘too busy’, return services are defaulted to DHL. Not good news for the Royal Mail, who seem to have lost some major business there, not least as it is suggested that some 1 million imminent passport applications may be held up by industrial action at the Passport Office – just in time for school summer holidays. Hooray.
Well, back to the point, maybe all well and good. However, TNT attempted to deliver the new passport, but could not, despite us being at home and able to answer the doorbell, as we have a locked post box fixed to our wall adjacent to our driveway. This post box was deemed by TNT to be ‘not secure’, so the passport was returned to the Passport Office on 9 December 2012. Neither the Passport Office nor TNT let us know that there had been a ‘failed delivery’.
When I spoke to TNT, I was told that they no longer leave cards in post boxes to advise a failed delivery (whereas other couriers do), and that it would only be advised to us by SMS or some other electronic means. So, if we have unreliable internet, email, or some other ethernet communication, we will never know, and we didn’t receive any messages.
The passport was reissued in early November but returned to the Passport Office. This time, after five months, I spent more than eight hours over two days trying to speak to a carbon-based life form at the Passport Office to find out where the passport was.
Finally, I spoke to someone who was very helpful, and two days later, the renewed passport arrived. Result.
The issues are these
Unless we are present to receive a passport personally, it probably won’t happen.
An attempted delivery won’t be notified by a simple card from the courier. So there is no possibility of rearranging delivery unless you are lucky enough to get an SMS from TNT.
It’s incredibly difficult to speak to anyone at the Passport Office. Their ‘warm & friendly’ advice service leads to an almost impenetrable call-centre menu.
From the beginning of May 2023, there will be a five-week strike in the Passport Office. They will now be inundated with requests for new or renewed passports. There may be lengthy delays in processing new applications.
So, perhaps now is the time to pack warm clothes for a UK holiday and forget about travelling further afield unless your passport is still valid for not less than six months before you go ‘abroad’.
The passport (derived from ‘Passepartout’) is the right of any British citizen to possess by Royal Decree, but we need good luck and tenacity to obtain or renew one.