BRITONS living in France whose passports are about to run out will receive automatic one-year extensions, Britain’s home secretary Theresa May has revealed.
She made the announcement, which affects all British expats, during an emergency Commons statement, after it was revealed that passport offices in Britain are struggling to cope with a backlog of unprocessed applications.
She also said that those applying from overseas for passports for their children would also be issued with emergency travel documents, although they will still have to provide “comprehensive proof” they are the parents.
Meanwhile, holidaymakers and business people with an “urgent need to travel” will have their passport renewals fast-tracked free of charge, she said.
As Mrs May made her statement, The Telegraph reported that the Foreign Office had warned MPs in January that the closure of overseas Passport Offices, such as the one in Paris, would lead to delays in processing.
Passport offices in the UK have had to deal with 350,000 more passport applications this year. The additional workload has been identified as a key reason for the delays processing passport applications.
Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday admitted during PMQs in the House of Commons that the Passport Office had received 300,000 more applications that normal and 10 per cent of those had been delayed.
The Passport Office said that checks on passport applications from overseas take “significantly longer” than those sent from within the UK.
It added: “We have issued over three million passports for UK customers so far in 2014.
“From the beginning of January to the end of May more than 97% of straightforward passport renewal and child applications have been processed within the usual three week target turnaround time and over 99% of straightforward applications have been processed within four weeks.”
It recommended people do not finalise travel plans until they have received their passports.
Earlier this year, it was announced that centralising passport processing in the UK would cut the cost of applications for people living overseas.