Six week wait for a passportFirst time applicants face a wait, says government

08 January 2008

The government says travellers may face a six-week wait to get a new passport under anti-fraud measures introduced last year.

Adults applying for their first passport will be called for interview in one of 69 passport offices around the country.

Those with renewing passports can still use the one-week fast track service.

Holiday bookings

According to the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) and Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) the shock of a first full week back at work will spark a surge in holiday bookings.

Yesterday up to 500,000 people were expected to reserve a summer break, according to Abta.

Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said: 'With Christmas festivities at an end, it's the natural time to start looking ahead and planning your summer break.

'As part of that process we are encouraging holiday makers to check their passport is up-to-date as it now can take up to six weeks for first-time adult customers to get a new passport.'

Anti-fraud measures

The minister added: 'Interviews for first-time adult customers will build on other anti-fraud measures we have introduced such as enhanced background checks and more secure passports with your photo contained on a chip.

'Together these will help fight passport fraud and forgery and ensure the British passport stays one of the most secure and respected in the world."

The Home Office says the tighter passport rules are needed to fight identity fraud, illegal immigration, terrorism and organised crime.

'Check your passport'

Mark Tanzer, Abta Chief Executive, said: 'Booking a holiday is a great way of beating the post-Christmas blues which is why we find January to be such a busy time for our travel agents. But before booking, customers should ensure their passport is valid.'

The withdrawal of the fast-track service for first-time adult customers began on June 1 last year.

All passports now issued are biometric passports, or ePassports, which include a chip storing physical details of the holder's face.

Interviews

A choice of time and location for the interview at one of 69 new offices will be offered.

During the 20-minute appointment applicants will be quizzed on details that can be verified, although the government insists 'deeply private' questions will not be asked.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg attacked the interviews when he was home affairs spokesman saying they would cause travel problems for poor people living in remote areas.

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