British travellers have collectively lost 567 million days of passport validity worth more than £13m thanks to the Government’s controversial new renewal policy, a study has shown.
Until September a Briton renewing their passport would have had any time left on their old document, up to a maximum of nine months, added to their new one. Someone whose passport expires on July 1, 2019, for example, would have been able to renew today and still be handed a fresh document valid until July 1, 2029. Now, however, a new passport issued to them today will only be valid until April 12, 2029.
A poll by Direct Line Travel Insurance of more than 2,000 Britons suggested passport holders have, on average, 159 days left on their travel document when they renew. An estimated 3.6m new passports have been issued since September, so it adds up to 567 million wasted days – or the equivalent of 155,000 10-year passports. With the cost of a new passport currently £85, Britons are, collectively, £13.2m out of pocket.
The changes have been widely criticised, not just for short-changing travellers but because they may encourage people to renew at the last minute to get full value from their document. That’s a risky strategy as many countries, including Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Russia, Indonesia and the UAE, only accept passports with at least six months left to run.
Tom Bishop, head of travel insurance at Direct Line, said: “It is a difficult balancing act, passport holders won’t want to waste the time remaining on an old passport by getting a new one too early, but in many cases, holidaymakers will need to ensure they have at least six months’ validity before travelling.”
A Home Office statement said the change was made to bring the UK in line with other countries. “Previously, the UK was the only country to exceed the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s guidelines for a maximum passport validity of ten years for adults, and five years for children,” it said. “The price paid for a UK passport has never reflected the validity of that passport, rather it is based on the cost of processing the application.”
The change came just six months after the cost of a postal passport application rose from £72.50 to £85 – a 17 per cent increase and well above the rate of inflation. For under 16s the cost is £58.50 (up from £46 a year ago, a 27 per cent increase). Online applications cost £75 and £49 for adults and children, respectively.