Has your passport expired during the pandemic too?
Panic set in when I saw how long it takes to get a passport renewed. Twitter bots crawl the GOV.UK site. You’ll get a notification to your phone when new appointments are added for the passport fast track service. Despite what you might have heard, you can get a UK passport urgently. It’s difficult, but possible. I managed it. Your UK passport renewal can be done and dusted in under a week. Want to know how to do just that, then read on.
My passport was full. Stamps and visas lining every single page. The years leading up to COVID were a ride.
My exit stamp from Indonesia took the last blank space in my passport. I managed to ride out the early years of the pandemic in Asia. Even spending lockdown on a deserted and abandoned island. But towards the end of the pandemic I took some time out away from travelling, deciding to spend a few months back ‘home’ in the UK.
Now I knew I should have started the ball rolling for a passport application the moment I set foot in the UK, after all I know full well that I would need to renew my British Passport. It was full. And now European countries have started to stamp British passports. I wouldn’t be able to travel anywhere until it was renewed.
Had I been more organized I would have paid the 70-odd quid and had my passport delivered to me a few months later.
That was not the case, it ended up costing me a lot more than that. And also left me debating whether I should suck it up and travel to Belfast to take the only available Fast Track Passport appointment, or to instead take my chances and wait for a London appointment to come around. I mean, travel costs roughly the same- £75 for either flights to Ireland or a train into London 💸.
Now I can take some partial blame for the situation I’m in, I have had plenty of time to renew my passport, nine whole months in fact. But for whatever reason I always end up doing things at the last minute, completely unorganized. 👏 Typical. 🤦♂️
It had been a long time since I last had to renew or replace a British Passport and after COVID the process has changed slightly. I needed a fast track passport, a same day passport ideally; but it takes so long now! Like three months. And somehow this is still being blamed on the pandemic. 🙃
I’d found a last-minute deal on a flight out of the UK and booked the ticket on a whim with fewer than 2 weeks until departure. I hadn’t even considered my passport renewal at this point.
But with the flight booked; visa applications and and getting a passport urgently became my second agenda. This should be straightforward, I thought innocently. I couldn’t have been any more wrong! I’ve been travelling long enough to have known better than this by now.
It seemed like an impossible task to renew my passport within a reasonable time frame! and I’m sure you can imagine the shock I felt when I began to research urgent passport renewals in the UK, only to find HMPO are taking their sweet time about it, an average time of 10 weeks to process an application!! S**t. That wasn’t going to work for me. I needed a fast track passport. And somehow I managed it. Within less than a week I had a brand new (Non-EU 😢) British Passport in my hands. 😁
So what is the fastest way to renew a UK passport? Here is what I learned over this stressful week and how I managed to fast track my British passport… using the premium passport service.
If you want to check the current passport renewal time the HM Passport Office publishes that information here on the GOV UK site.
The Standard Passport Application Process
In this post I’m going to focus on how to Fast-Track your application to renew a British Passport. But I’ll begin by saying that the fastest passport renewals and urgent passports are not the cheapest! So if you are in a position where you can stake out the three months it takes to renew a passport, using the standard service. Then I recommend doing that. Applying for a passport online through the standard channel is as a more affordable choice.
To renew a passport online UK, you’ll need to be more prepared than me.
To make a standard UK passport application head over to the HM Passport application portal here and follow the steps online. The standard service costs 75 GBP and your passport will be sent out by mail to your address.
But if you are anything like me, left it all until the last possible minute and need your passport to have been renewed; the
same day yesterday. Then keep on reading and find out everything about the two types of urgent passport applications currently being offered in the UK: The “1 week fast track passport” and the “online premium same day passport”.
Do You Need To Renew Your Passport or Replace Your Passport
First of all you’ll need to figure out if you need to renew your passport or replace it. Because the replacement process is slightly different to the renewal process.
Renewing a British Passport is far easier and quicker than replacing a British passport. For a renewal you can use your old passport to prove your identity.
But or a replacement you’ll kick start the entire application process as new.
It’s possible to renew your passport when you can still use it to prove your identity but when it has expired or has no blank pages remaining.
If you are unable to use your old passport to verify your identity i.e. when the passport has been lost, stolen or damaged. You’ll need to choose a replacement instead.
The Different Types Of Fast Track Applications For a British Passport
There are two different ‘Urgent’ services offered from HM Passport Office to speed up the process of getting a new British Passport.
These service are called: Online Premium and Fast-Track.
Now this is where things get a little confusing, and the naming of these two services can be really misleading, so bear with me and I’m going to break down the differences here.
- Standard Application: Costs 77 GBP. You apply online and the passport is sent in the post after 10 weeks, (not an urgent service).
- 1 Week Fast-Track: Costs 142 GBP. Your application is made at the passport office in person, at your appointment time. Once approved your passport will be sent in the mail after one week.
- Online Premium Passport Service: Costs 177 GBP. Your application is made (and approved) online, your passport gets printed in advance. Then you attend the passport office at your appointment time to collect your passport in person. Then and there.
*Appointments for both Online Premium and Fast-Track British passport applications can be difficult to come by.
For reference the Online Premium is the fastest passport renewal service, and the Fast Track service is the ‘slower’ of the two urgent services.
The Online Premium Service is the most desired appointment type.
Using this service you can have a new UK passport replacement in your hands within 48 hours. It’s the most expensive UK passport renewal service costing 177 GBP, a 100 Pound surcharge over the standard application. But it’s the quickest way to get a passport urgently to replace your expired British Passport.
You can make an application online and upload your passport photo online, (which is much easier nowadays, but I’ll fill you in on this later).
The application gets approved online then HM Passport Office will fire up their printers and run you off a shiny new UK Passport. You can then go to collect the new passport the same day, (as your appointment) in person from the HM Passport Office.
Brilliant you might be thinking, that sounds simple, but if something seems to good to be true then it probably is. So here’s the catch:
Making an appointment for the Online Premium Passport Service can be nigh on impossible. These appointments are highly sought after. Demand is high and availability is scarce.
You’ll need to make an appointment on the HMPO site. And this site briefly comes online at random intervals throughout the week, with limited appointments. 🤦♀️
But there are tools out there which can trigger notifications on your phone the second new appointments get added. So using this technique I’ll fill you in on exactly how I managed to make an appointment and get an urgent passport so easily.
Note: The Online Premium Passport Service is suitable for passport renewals only, i.e. an expired or filled passport. That is because you’ll need to take your old passport to your appointment, and use it to prove your identity. The old passport will have the corner snipped on the front cover thus invalidating it.
If your passport is damaged, lost, stolen or ‘roached’ you’ll need to use the fast-track passport renewal instead.
If, like me, you’re worried about parting with your old passport, then don’t. Mine was filled with stamps. All memories of my travel history and not something I wanted to part with. So although watching it get snipped can be a little bit heartbreaking, the good news is you keep both your old and your new passport.
‘Fast-Track’ – Passport Renewal or Replacement Service
Costing 142 GBP, despite what the name suggests the British Passport Fast-Track Service is slower that the Online Premium Service. The UK Passport Fast-Track appointment is suitable for a passport replacement or a passport renewal. You’ll need to make an appointment online (this is the tough part).
You won’t receive your passport on the same day of the appointment using the Fast-Track service, instead you’ll be making an in person application. When the application is approved you’ll be notified by email and your passport gets sent in the post, taking up to one week from the date of your in person application.
You’ll need to take a filled in application form which can be picked up at most UK Post Offices. Along with your passport mug-shots. Technically you’ll be making a brand new passport application using this service so yeah, you’ll need to find someone to act as a countersign too.
UK passport application form PDF:
This is honestly the toughest part of the whole process. But I’ll share how I managed to snag an online premium appointment within a few days.
Get Your Passport Photos Taken
Make this a priority. Even if you get lucky enough to catch an open appointment slot online for an urgent passport renewal, you won’t be able to book it without first uploading your photos.
To get your new passport photos taken, put on your best fitting shirt and drop your smile (unless the process of applying for a passport has already taken your smile)! Then head to a Max Spielmann Photo Booth.
I recommend these booths because they can be found nationwide, but most importantly these booths also issue a digital ‘photo code’ with your prints. The code provided integrates with the online passport application service. So instead of trying to digitize your prints you simply enter the code issued on the website and your photos will be automatically added to your application.
Here’s the link to the Max Spielmann website where you can find the booth closest to you.
Here’s the British Passport photo requirements.
Make an Appointment Online
Easier said than done.
Head over to the official website: https://www.passport.service.gov.uk/urgent/online-premium
The website is only accessible when appointments are made available. Most of the time you’ll get hit with the following message 🔽😓
Generally the site comes online some time between 7 – 8 am Monday to Friday. And the site goes offline as soon the offered appointments are filled, usually around an hour after going online. But new appointments can be added at any time throughout the day. When they do they get snapped up, fast!
So how do you when urgent passport appointments are available to be booked?
Here’s how I managed to book an appointment. You’ll need to follow a Twitter Bot in order to be the first to know when appointments become available to book!
Also forget about trying to visit a specific passport office. If you’re in urgent need for a passport take the first appointment that comes your way. I was lucky enough to get an appointment at the London office, however a friend applying at the same time opted to take the only other available appointment in Belfast, which meant travelling to Ireland for a few nights in order to collect his passport!
For reference there are seven Passport offices in the UK where it is possible to collect an Online Premium Passport from or Make a Fast Track Application at. The offices are located in London, Peterborough, Liverpool, Durahum, Newport (Wales), Glasgow (Scotland) and Belfast (Northern Ireland).
Track The Appointments on Twitter
It has become so difficult to make an appointment for a fast tracked British Passport that programmers and data scientists have taken to Twitter to find a solution. These python scripts or ‘Bots’ scrape the data, checking the HMPO website every 60 seconds and reporting back in real time at the moment appointments are added to the site.
My recommendation for anyone struggling to book an appointment is to follow one or two of these accounts(you can follow Backpack BOB while you’re there too)! Then make sure to switch on your twitter notifications for these accounts. The second a new appointment is added to the site you’ll have that information sent straight to your phone and you can head over there, cross your fingers in the hopes that someone hasn’t snagged the appointment before you and then book your spot to get your passport renewed.
These are the two accounts I followed and I recommend you to do the same if you want to stand any chance of securing a Passport Appointment. I recommend following both accounts to cover all basis:
Follow @PassportAlerts on Twitter to get notified when new Online Premium or Fast Track appointments get added to the HMPO site.
Passport Alerts Twitter: https://twitter.com/PassportAlerts
Follow @ukpassportchecks on Twitter to get notified when new Online Premium or Fast Track appointments get added to the HMPO site.
UkPassportCheck Twitter: https://twitter.com/ukpassportcheck
Don’t have Twitter? You can use a paid service instead to receive alerts by SMS text message: https://ukpassportcheck.wordpress.com/.
Get Notified About New Appointments
You can receive notification for both Online Premium Passport Service appointments and 1 Week Fast Track Passport appointments. When you’ve set up your notifications it becomes a waiting game.
When appointments go live you’ll be notified. And you’ll want to act fast!
It’s usually just one or two appointments that get added so there becomes a race to book before any else!
The notification you’ll receive from Twitter should look something like this, you can see how limited the slots are:
But using this method gives you an edge over anyone else and will be the quickest way to get an urgent passport.
I also recommend bookmarking the link. And having everything you need to make an appointment on hand. For the Online Premium Service that is your old passport, your photo code and and you’ll need to pay for the appointment too before it’s confirmed. So make sure you’ve got your credit card on hand too.
To book the One Week Fast Track service you only need to pay for the appointment. When you attend the appointment you’ll need to bring a filled in application form (with countersignature) and your photos.
And there you have it. With your urgent passport appointment booked it’s a case of travelling to the Passport Office. Bounce past the long-ass queue of p****d-off folk, head straight into the office and; with an online premium appointment, you’ll be walking out with your new British Passport in less than 10 minutes, (don’t forget to bring your old passport). And with a Fast Track Passport you’ll be receiving your new passport in the mail in 1 week’s time, (don’t forget your application form).
If this post helped you out to urgently renew your British passport and want to show you appreciation, you can! If you have questions about the process, feedback, tips or want to share your experience renewing a UK passport then please leave a comment below!
UK Fast Track Passport: F.A.Q’s:
If you have a question about the UK Emergency Passport Process that I haven’t answered in this post add a comment below and I’ll answer your question in this section too.
More of a tip than a question, but if you travel often then I’d recommend applying for a Frequent Traveller Passport otherwise known as the ‘Jumbo’ British Passport as opposed to the standard passport. The Jumbo Passport has 50 pages as opposed to the 34 pages found in the standard British Passport. Thus eliminating the need to make a Passport Fast Track application in future when the pages are full!
Contacting The Passport Office
Surprisingly the Passport office has pretty good support options and you can call the HMPO Passport Advice Line on +44 300 222 0000. They are unable to make an appointment for you and they are unable to advise about when online premium and fast track appointments will be made available/live to book but they’re pretty helpful for all other inquiries.
Emergency passport appointments can be made on compassionate grounds over the phone. But you’ll need to have a genuine compassionate reason and you’ll need to back it with evidence too.
Can I go to the passport office to renew my Passport UK?
No you cannot just go to the Passport Office to renew a UK Passport. You’ll be turned away without an appointment.
Can I renew my passport without sending my old one UK?
Standard Online Renewal: You’ll need to send off your old passport and it will be returned with a corner snipped.
1 Week Fast Track Passport Service: You don’t need to show your old passport whatsoever.
Online Premium Service: You need to show your old passport and the corner will be cut when you collect your new passport. However you retain both passports and do not need to send it in the post anywhere.
How long does it take to renew a passport UK 2022?
The standard renewal time is around ten weeks at the time this post was published! But using the Online Premium Passport Service or the 1 Week Passport Fast Track it can be much quicker.
What is the fastest way to renew a passport UK? How quickly can you get an urgent passport?
The fastest way to hurry a UK Passport application is using the Online Premium Passport Service. If you manage to snag an appointment online then you can receive your new passport the same day that you attend the passport office. But this service is also the most costly.
Do you need a reason for an urgent passport?
You do not need any reason for an urgent passport if you are using the Online Premium or 1 Week Passport Fast Track. You do need to have a reason if you are applying for an urgent passport over the phone on compassionate grounds.
Can I get a passport in 2 days UK?
Technically it is possible to renew a UK Passport in 2 days if you’re lucky enough to book an online premium appointment. If you create the appointment on a Monday in theory, and based on availability you can collect your passport after 2 days later on Thursday the same week.