“To the best of my knowledge, everybody is getting their passport within four to six weeks.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson responded to questions from Labour leader Keir Starmer about delays to passport processing by claiming that all passports were being received within a maximum of six weeks. This is not correct.
HM Passport Office is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of demand, as more than five million people delayed applying for their passports during the Covid-19 pandemic due to restrictions on international travel.
The government agency expects to receive 9.5 million applications this year and in March alone, a record one million applications were processed.
This has resulted in considerably longer delivery times for passports. Prior to the pandemic, applications took around three weeks to process. Since April 2021, the government has told travellers to allow up to 10 weeks for their passports to arrive.
During a debate in the House of Commons on 12 May, Home Office minister Tom Pursglove said that “the vast majority of passport applications are being processed within the 10-week time frame and more than 90% within six weeks”.
In addition, Mr Pursglove said that fewer than 1.4% of UK passports printed in the previous week “had been in the system for longer than 10 weeks”.
A spokesperson for the Passport Office told Full Fact: “Since April 2021, we’ve clearly stated that people should allow up to ten weeks when applying for their passport to factor in the increased demand”. They added that the “overwhelming majority” of applications are completed within this time.
The Passport Office confirmed that 250,000 applications are being dealt with each week. Based on the figure that 90% of applications are processed within six weeks, this means that around 25,000 of these applications will not be processed within six weeks each week. If 1.4% of UK passports printed in a week have been in the system for longer than 10 weeks, this could amount to up to 3,500 passports.
Such figures mean that, although the majority of passport applications are being processed within six weeks, it is incorrect for the Prime Minister to claim that everybody is getting their passport within four to six weeks.
Image courtesy of Caspar Rae