New warning over ‘ruse’ used by desperate travellers to avoid passport delays – but experts say it WON’T work

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DESPERATE holidaymakers have been rumbled after staging an elaborate ruse to try and avoid passport delays.

But travel experts have warned Brits the sneaky tactic won’t actually work and is piling MORE pressure on HM Passport Office.

In a bid to surpass the lengthy wait to secure the legal document, people are exploiting a loophole in the application process.

Brits can “upgrade” their passport request to a high priority if they pay an extra £102 and can prove they need a passport within a fortnight.

This sees them get their passport back within two weeks.

Because of this, desperate travellers are booking cheap one-way tickets to qualify – despite never actually planning on boarding the plane.

But after being bombarded by applicants claiming to be heading on a last-minute holiday, The Passport Office is “getting wise to it.”

Andy Anderson, who runs the independent Passport Waiting Time website, told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s something I have definitely seen people doing.

“The Passport Office has started to ask for information about when people booked the flight as they’re getting wise to it.

“But there’s still so much inconsistency – it [the ruse] is working for some people but not for others.”

Employees are still wading through a huge backlog amid an influx of holidaymakers post-Covid, while battling staff shortages.

The agency now has a wait of up to 20 days for the majority of in-person appointments for emergency fast-track and premium services.

They typically don’t allow standard applications to be upgraded once the process has begun, but make exceptions for Brits who can prove they are travelling within two weeks.

The applicants who bag an “upgrade” will then be moved to the premium one-day service.

This means they then have to book an in-person appointment to receive their passport – dwarfing the normal waiting time of up to 10 weeks.

But this has led to fierce demand for face-to-face visits at The Passport Office, causing further chaos for their booking system.

And those who paid for the premium service from the get-go are getting bumped further back.

PASSPORT PANDEMONIUM

Mr Anderson continued: “There just aren’t enough appointments and people are really struggling to book them.

“Even if you do qualify for an upgrade, you may be unable to secure an appointment to get your passport.

“I think we could definitely see worse to come, especially with the approach of the school holidays.”

The Passport Office said staff were processing around 250,000 applications a week, with 98.5 per cent completed within ten weeks.

Many Brits have been affected by the delays – one woman told Sun Online Travel she had to cancel her £2,200 holiday to Spain.

A passport worker, who remained anonymous, told the i that the delays are only “going to get worse” this summer, adding the current delays are the “tip of the iceberg” of problems.

And now new research has found that more delays could cause problems, according to the Independent, due to new plans to cut staff.

The research issued by the Labour party means this would result in 8,000 fewer passport applications being processed a day.

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