Five years ago HM Passport Office had a good reputation for dealing quickly with passport applications. In February 2018 the then immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, told Parliament: “We are currently processing 99.9 per cent of simple applications within three weeks.
“On average, customers making a non-priority application can expect their passport to be issued seven working days after the application has been made.”
Today, HM Passport Office still issues most passports within three weeks – but the number not processed in this time has increased 30-fold since 2018; three percent are not issued within this time period.
The authority, which is part of the Home Office, urges: “Allow up to 10 weeks to receive your passport.”
But many people, especially if they are regular business travellers, will find it difficult to identify a 10-week period when they can guarantee that they will not be traveling abroad.
The government says people should use one of the premium services to renew in a week or less. But for travelers who qualify, a second British passport could be the answer.
Is it legal to have two passports?
Yes. British travelers with a passport issued by another country, such as Ireland, are in a strong position. They are able to use either document – a significant advantage when traveling to the European Union or countries that charge high visa fees for UK passport holders.
But there are many of us who are not lucky enough to have Irish ancestors and are only eligible for a British passport. You can have as many as the authorities deem necessary – although getting three is a stretch, and even for two you’ll need to provide some proof that you meet the requirements.
What are the conditions?
The official position is that HM Passport Office does not normally allow more than one passport per person. But if the traveler really needs to create one it can be issued fairly regularly.
There are three broad concessions:
Frequent travel abroad, usually for work (eg airline staff), business or study.
Visa supply: some nations hang on to passports for weeks, which can prevent visits to other places while the application is being processed.
Travel to incompatible countries – where evidence of a visit to Israel, for example, can prevent you from traveling to another nation.
How do I create it?
The IS travel often justification is generally the easiest. You will need supporting documents, which could be as simple as a letter from your employer explaining (for example) that you often have to travel abroad at short notice and therefore cannot send your passport out for 10 weeks.
This could include an account of recent or upcoming work trips – and, if relevant, any holiday plans you might reasonably have. For example, someone who has booked a holiday at the beginning of July 2023 whose current passport is expiring, would not be able to plan any trip abroad from mid-April onwards due to the 10-week condition of the Office of HM Passports.
To qualify under the visa provision Under heading, you would need a similar letter explaining your need to travel to a complicated country – such as a country that does not have a diplomatic presence in the UK and therefore requires the passport to be sent to Paris or Brussels.
Don incompatible countries option, you would need different evidence: usually evidence showing a visit to Israel and a need to visit one of these countries: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen.
Note that although Israel does not normally stamp passports, stamps from certain border posts in Egypt and Jordan can provide proof to “hostile” nations that you have been there.
Other possible concerns include evidence of a visit to Kosovo if you want to go to Serbia, and of travel to Libya if you hope to go to the Saudi Arabia.
How do I apply?
There is no need to apply in person, or any special form. The easiest way is online, the usual way to renew a passport. This costs £82.50.
The point at which you are asked to submit your passport is at the point where you are asked to send your passport into the application party company with the “normal renewal”. Instead, send a covering letter explaining that you want an “additional passport” (the official term) and attach the supporting documents. In addition, send a color photocopy of the personal details pages in your current passport.
Even when this arrives, you may still receive text messages saying you need to send in your passport. Chatting to the Passport Advice Line (0300 222 0000, 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, 9am-5.30pm at weekends) should get you over this hurdle.
The delivery may take a few extra days due to the need to evaluate your situation, but The Independent that he has evidence that applications have been completed in two to three weeks.
If you are in a hurry you could use the one-week Fast Track service or the faster Online Premium service for your extra pass. Both of these need to attend an interview at one of HM Passport Offices across the UK. On top of your travel costs, you pay an extra £101 for Online Premium and £62.50 for a week’s Fast Track – showing the value of a second pass. It goes without saying that you should accept all the supporting evidence.
On what grounds can I be refused?
If you’ve recently had your passport stolen, your case is likely to receive close attention – as some travelers have sold their passports in the past and then reported them lost.
Your supporting evidence may also be considered too flimsy, which is why you should provide as much as you can – and provide HM Passport Office examiners with numbers to call for verification.
If my application is rejected, will I get my money back?
HM Passport Office makes it clear that payment is for the application, regardless of the outcome, and no refunds are made.
Can I get a second pass under a different name?
No, unless there are special reasons for traveling to “incompatible countries”. HM Passport Office says: “We must issue all additional passports under the same name.”
Can I get three British passports?
Yes, if you have a “real need”. But it will be scrutinized much more closely than the second pass. HM Passport Office says: “If a customer requests three or more valid passports and they are absolutely necessary, it must be authorized by a Chief Executive Officer (HEO) or a senior person.”
Once I get the second passport, can I renew it regularly?
It is not clear what HM Passport Office says and what actually happens.
The service says: “Customers do not have the right to automatically renew their additional pass. When a customer applies to renew an additional passport, they must tell us why they need it [and] provide us with evidence to show that they still need it.
“We will review requests for additional passports on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the customer’s need, the amount of validity they require on their additional passport and whether they would benefit from a 50-page regular traveler passport instead.”
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that a second passport can be renewed online without inquiry.
What is the official line on extra passports?
A spokesperson from HM Passport Office told me: “For security reasons the vast majority of people will not be entitled to hold two British passports at the same time.
“If anyone needs their passport back sooner than 10 weeks, they should apply using an urgent passport service.”