Passport Office workers are beginning a five-week strike in the increasingly bitter Civil Service dispute over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions.
More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) at eight sites are walking out in an escalation of the long-running row.
Picket lines will be mounted on Monday outside offices in Glasgow, Durham, Liverpool, Southport, Peterborough, London, Belfast and Newport in Wales.
Is the Passport Office on strike?
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to the Government calling for urgent talks in a bid to resolve the dispute.
He has accused ministers of treating its own employees differently to others in the public sector after negotiations were held with unions representing health workers and teachers.
The union is stepping up strikes, with a nationwide walkout of more than 130,000 civil servants planned for April 28. Those taking action will be supported by a strike fund.
The Home Office said the Passport Office has already processed more than 2.7 million applications this year, adding over 99.7 per cent of standard applications are being processed within 10 weeks, with the majority of those delivered to customers well under this timescale.
There are currently no plans to change official guidance which states that it takes up to 10 weeks to get a passport.
How will it affect passports?
Jo Rhodes, deputy editor of Which? Travel, said the strikes will be of concern to “hundreds of thousands of travellers who need to renew in the coming months”.
Currently, the Passport Office warns it can take up to 10 weeks for new passports to be processed. However Ms Rhodes warned this could now rise.
She said: “Anyone due to travel this summer should check their passport’s expiry date carefully, as well as the number of months validity required by their destination. If you do need to renew your passport, apply as early as possible.”
Downing Street said ministers would work to “mitigate” the impact of strikes by Passport Office staff, but that there were no plans to change guidance on the 10-week waiting times for passports ahead of summer.
Last year, hundreds of thousands of people were hit by delays in passport processing in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, with the Passport Office unable to keep up with unprecedented demand as travel restrictions eased.
A report published in December by the National Audit Office found 360,000 people waited more than 10 weeks to receive their passport in the first nine months of 2022, with similar demand expected this year.
Natalie Taylor, a travel agent with Hays Travel, said the delays were brought under control and she recently received a passport for her son within 12 days of sending it off. However, she fears the strike will lead to a fresh backlog.
“For anybody that’s wanting to go away in the summer this is probably going to put a massive strain on them because we don’t know what the backlog is going to be from these strikes. So we’re just trying to say to everyone if you know it’s coming up just get it done now,” she said.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “There are no current plans to change the guidance that people should allow up to 10 weeks to get a passport.
“The Home Office will work hard to manage the impact of this strike action to ensure they can still provide the vital service to the British public as you would expect ahead of ahead of the summer where we fully acknowledge that many people will want to get away and enjoy the summer with their family.
“So we will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of the strikes.”