IMPORTANT - For UK Expats - Passport Renewal Changes

From the South China Morning Post, Dec 4, 2011 by Keith Wallis

Thousands of British passport holders in Hong Kong and on the mainland face being marooned because of little-known changes in renewal procedures.

Regulations introduced last August mean that the applications are dealt with in Hong Kong but the passports are issued from Britain.

Previous passports are cancelled as soon as the person applies for renewal, and the new passports are taking up to four weeks to arrive.

That means business people across Asia can be stranded and unable to travel while they wait.

One Hong Kong businessman was forced to spend HK$15,000 travelling to London to renew his passport or risk losing key deals in China and India because the Hong Kong processing centre could not guarantee the new passport would arrive before he travelled.

The regulations are also severely affecting British passport holders who commute between Hong Kong and the mainland on an almost daily basis. They have to renew their 10-year passports as often as every 10 months because they are full.

Officials in London say the move was prompted by security concerns and the need to save money.
But British chambers of commerce in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok are so concerned about the impact on business they have written to British Prime Minister David Cameron and several ministers calling on them to amend the system.

They are also worried about further proposed changes, due to be introduced by 2014, that will force passport holders to apply directly to Britain for a new passport rather than to one of the seven regional passport processing centres around the world.

The Hong Kong centre, covering north and southeast Asia, deals with around 53,000 applications a year, of which about 40,000 are for renewals.

Brigadier Christopher Hammerbeck, executive director of Hong Kong's British Chamber of Commerce, said it was "unacceptable" there was no fast-track service to shorten the renewal time.

He said the chamber had suggested an express service along with a larger, 96-page passport in a letter to Vince Cable, Britain's secretary of state for business. The chamber has also contacted three other government officials, including Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne.

The British consulate general estimates there are 250,000 British citizens in Hong Kong, including 30,000 expats and around 16,000 British nationals with mainland work visas.
The changes also affect holders of British National (Overseas) passports, although out of around 3.4 million issued, only about 7,000 are renewed each year as travellers appear to prefer Hong Kong SAR passports.

Tony Wines, director of Turnkey Consulting, spent HK$15,000 on a return air fare, a hotel and meals to renew his passport in London.

Wines, whose passport had one page and eight years left, urgently needed a replacement because he was making visits to China and India inside a week to support bids for new contracts. "I had to go," he said.
But when Wines applied at the British consulate in Hong Kong he found the passport would not be issued locally. Instead, he was told it would take a "minimum of three weeks and possible four" for the new passport to be sent from Britain.
An emergency travel document could be issued, at a cost of about HK$1,300, but while it would be accepted by the mainland authorities, Wines said it would not be recognised by Indian immigration.
With no fast-track service available, Wines decided to fly back to London, where a new passport was issued in 24 hours. He said: "It was a real hassle. The change in legislation has not been brought to people's attention. I don't understand why there is no premium service here."

One British citizen, who became aware of the changes only when he checked the British consulate website said: "I work in Hong Kong and my family is in Shenzhen.

"What am I supposed to do every 10 months when the time comes to renew my passport? Spend HK$800 a night for a hotel room for three or four weeks waiting for a new passport or try to work from Shenzhen?"

Jo McPhail, head of the overseas passport management unit at the Foreign Office, said the passport operation was shifted back to Britain to economise and improve security by cutting the number of blank passports being moved globally.

She said the majority of applicants received new passports within two weeks and that 28 days is the "maximum turnaround [time]".
No express service was currently available outside Britain.

McPhail said technology issues meant a person's passport was cancelled as soon as they applied for a new one. Copyright (c) 2011. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Same thing is happening in Germany but it took a grand total of 4 days from when I handed the paperwork in to when the new one turned up at my door.

I thought that was a very acceptable turn round time.

Can't see why it takes 4 weeks for a HK one though.
Same thing is happening in Germany but it took a grand total of 4 days from when I handed the paperwork in to when the new one turned up at my door.

I thought that was a very acceptable turn round time.

Can't see why it takes 4 weeks for a HK one though.
The chinese intercept them , copy them and then return them. God to keep track of your people.

How much of a generalised embuggerance is this as opposed to horribly shit for a fairly small number of individuals? Without knowing the mechanics, the point about controlling the supply of blank passports seems fairly reasonable but you'd think it was the sort of thing that deserved a bit wider publication.
Old news for some of us. It's happening in several countries. The Paris hub which printed passports for several European and Middle Eastern countries has transferred printing back to the UK, thus increasing processing time. It's a money making scam to force you into buying the emergency travel document ... Consular time spent helping out drunken stag groups in Prague doesn't come free :)

British passport backlog in Washington causes expat outcry

British citizens living in America are becoming increasingly angry at delays in the processing of their passports.

By Leah Hyslop

1:19PM BST 28 Jun 2011

The British Embassy in Washington DC, which handles passports for British citizens living in North and South America, as well as the Caribbean, usually turns around first-time applications for passports within six weeks, and renewals within four weeks, of the date it processes the application fee.

An unexpected surge in demand however means that many expats are now facing a far longer wait, causing problems for those who have booked holidays, or have urgent business to attend to abroad.

Notices on the website of the embassy apologise for the delays, and say that current applicants should expect their passports to take around 10 weeks from the time their credit card is charged.

Stephen Kemp, a British expat who has set up a petitioncalling for a government investigation into the matter, said however that because it was taking up to six weeks just to process the payments, some Britons would be waiting for around four months in total.

“Meanwhile you have people with sick or dying relatives, people trying to start new jobs, and business people trying to travel, who thought they had time to get a simple renewal," he said. "Four weeks is ample time to process; four months is mismanagement.”

Many expats have turned to the internet to vent their anger, with members of the British Expat forum labelling the delays “unbelievable” and “unacceptable”.
British citizens who need to travel urgently do have the option of organising an Emergency Travel Document, or ETD, but Mr Kemp said it was not an easy solution. “It’s fine if you want to pay the additional $157 on top of what you already spent for your passport, but on top of that you need to do it in person, and not everyone is within easy distance of an embassy.”
Delays are also being experienced in Düsseldorf, where passports are processed for British citizens in a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East.
A spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service said: "Delays in Washington and Düsseldorf are isolated incidents caused by an increase in demand. We are working hard to meet this extra demand and apologise to customers who are experiencing delays.
"All other processing centres are delivering passports within the advertised turnaround times.”

British passport backlog in Washington causes expat outcry - Telegraph
I run two British passports and three years ago I renewed one through the consulate in Madrid. Eighteen months ago I applied to have the second renewed at the same consulate. I asked them to hold the new passport in Madrid as I intended to the Mrs pre on a trip there. On arrival at the Madrid consulate (getting in to Fort Knox may have been easier) no new passport was available. I was informed that they needed to see my other passport before a new second could be issued. They had not bothered to inform me of this over the preceding three weeks and the new passport was not ready for collection.

I did happen to have the other passport with me and handed it over. I pointed out that it had been issued by them a year earlier and that they should have a record of it. I was told it had to be verified.

I work in pretty remote areas and at that time had just returned from the Ogaden desert in Ethiopia. I was told that a mere photo copy was not sufficient proof of the second passport and that it had to be notarised by a UK consulate if a copy was to be sent with the application for a new passport (this requirement is not made known in any of the application rules).

The issues here were that:-

a) I was not informed that proof of the other passport was required and so my application for a new passport was delayed
b) If I had been at work I could not have had the other passport verified officially by a British government agency and therefore could not have complied with the requirement to show proof that the second passport was actually in my possession.

I was told to return to the consulate the next day to pick up the new passport - I took the fact that it only took eighteen hours to produce the new passport as an apology!!!

Holding two passports is allowable and allows business travelers to apply for visas with one passport while holding on to one that has the visa for a place where you may be working or visiting etc.

Thank you to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for making life as a traveling expat even more interesting.
I always thought you had to leave about four weeks for postal renewals anyway. The advice was don't leave it till the last minute. When I renewed mine through the British Embassy in Helsinki, a few years back, they also said it could take up to four weeks. IIRC, it took just over two. No idea where it was issued though.
Same thing is happening in Germany but it took a grand total of 4 days from when I handed the paperwork in to when the new one turned up at my door.

I thought that was a very acceptable turn round time.

Can't see why it takes 4 weeks for a HK one though.
It's because May Ling, the postmistress, has gone into hiding. Her husband Ray Ling the fence, found out that whilst he was in prison she was receiving back door deliveries out of hours from Won Hung Lo the gigolo.
I'm back in the UK for xmas and new year. Appointment already made with the London passport office for the 4 hr service.
And the less said about security surrounding payment for passports by credit card - specifically via Paris, but other central offices may use the same system - the better!
Not to mention the premium (v.high) rate phone number they insist on using for any Consular/Passport enquiries!
I have to say I am impressed with the system now, which has obviously been revamped from a couple of years' ago.
My daughter sent her application for a first Adult passport off on 3 April. It arrived this morning (12 April), and there was a weekend in between.
Feel sorry for German nationals, if living abroad they have to return to Germany to renew. Really expensive if living on another continent.
I renewed mine when in Australia in 2014. Took a grand total of 10 days, and that was over Christmas.

The main reason is to stop fake passports being issued. Sadly to prevent offending certain countries, where you could acquire a "UK" passport for the stuffed brown envelope, the change was implemented in all countries. I actually had to send mine through the Australian Post Office, not the High Commission, even though I lived in Canberra. I think you will find that once they have arrived in UK, the passport application tends to be "fast-tracked" as they are aware people are overseas. In regards to the poster talking about the people in HK needing to renew every 10 months because they run out of space in their passport, they should apply for one with additional pages. You can apply for a 48 page passport (normal is 32, so an additional 50%) for £85.50 instead of £72.50

Passport fees - GOV.UK
HM Passport Office - GOV.UK
You can also have more than one UK passport, if you can show good reason. If you are an expat in a region where they love to fill your passport up with stamps and big paper stickies, or make you wait two weeks for a visa, then you are justified in having a second passport issued.

(Also a very good idea if you live in crappy places or otherwise run the risk of having your primary passport confiscated; always nice to have another way of getting over a border in a hurry....)
Feel sorry for German nationals, if living abroad they have to return to Germany to renew. Really expensive if living on another continent.
Since when? Go to the German Mission/embassy/consol nearest to you and hand in the paper work in person.

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