The UK’s backlog of passport applications has reached over 400,000 due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Passport office staff have been reduced to allow for social distancing, so that forms processing takes much longer than usual, according to the Home Secretary.
Baroness Williams of Trafford revealed the extent of the passport backlog in a response to a parliamentary question written by Labor MP Lord Kennedy of Southwark about administrative delays.
But she said steps were being taken to increase capacity to meet demand.
It follows the relaxation of Foreign Ministry guidelines on non-essential overseas travel and quarantine rules, paving the way for overseas vacations to destinations such as Spain, Germany , France and Italy.
In her written response to the backlog, Lady Williams said the Passport Office “continues to operate with a small staff so that its employees can continue to distance themselves socially”.
She added: “The processing of passport applications is therefore taking longer than usual.
“As part of its emergency arrangements, HM Passport Office is rapidly increasing its capacity to process passport applications, in accordance with public health guidelines, which will help ensure that it continues to meet the travel needs of its customers. . ”
As of July 7, she said, work was underway on about 126,000 passport applications, 31 percent more than the same time last year.
The minister stressed that 284,000 additional requests “will have to be processed in the coming weeks once the initial documentation has been received and assigned”.
This is a 172% increase from last year, she said.