Passport Office workers are wrestling with a backlog of more than 400,000 applications as a result of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, latest figures reveal.
Reduced staffing to allow for social distancing means forms are taking longer than usual to process, according to a Home Office minister.
The Passport Office is struggling to get its 2,000 staff members back in the office because of the guidelines, meaning some Britons are having to wait four months for new documents.
However, Tory fronbencher Baroness Williams of Trafford said steps were being taken to increase capacity in a bid to help meet demand.
She disclosed the scale of the passport backlog in a response to a parliamentary written question by Labour frontbencher Lord Kennedy of Southwark over the administrative delays.
It follows the relaxation of Foreign Office guidance on non-essential overseas travel and quarantine rules, paving the way for foreign holidays to destinations including Spain, Germany, France and Italy.
In her written answer about the backlog, Lady Williams said the Passport Office ‘continues to operate at reduced staffing levels so its people can continue to socially distance’.
She added: ‘It is therefore taking longer than usual to process passport applications.
‘As part of its contingency arrangements, HM Passport Office is rapidly increasing its capacity for processing passport applications, in line with public health guidance, which will help to ensure it continues to meet the travel needs of its customers.’
As of July 7, she said, work was under way on about 126,000 passport applications – 31% higher than at the same period last year.
The minister pointed out a further 284,000 applications would ‘need to be worked through in the coming weeks once initial documentation has been received and allocated’.
This represented an increase of 172% from last year, she said.