Plans are afoot to increase charges for passport applications; if the proposed plans go ahead, for the first time ever, it will be more expensive to order your passport by post than to do so online.
This forms part of the Home Office’s ambition to increase the use of online applications and create ‘a self-sustainable immigration and borders system.’ For many who naturally choose online services and use them with ease, this will come as a welcome development, but what about people, such as some of our older generation, who are daunted by the prospect of using online services or who are unable to access the internet at all?
For those applying by post, the price of a British passport will rise by £12.50 on 27th March this year. The cost of online passport applications is also due to go up, but only by £3. The increase for postal applications is said to reflect the cost of processing them.
So if the phrase ‘online services’ fills you with dread and you want to avoid the extra costs, what can you do? Well, you could consider getting or renewing your passport before the changes are due to be implemented, though you’d need to be quick! According to the BBC, the HM Passport Office has said it plans to draft in up to 200 extra staff to cope with extra demand in the run-up to the price increase.
Alternatively, you could decide to take the plunge, save yourself £9.50 and give an online application a try. If you don’t have access to the internet in your home, you could visit your local library. If you find the application process daunting, it may be worth asking a friend or member of the family to help you.
In many ways, online applications are easier, as the system takes you through the process one step at a time, mistakes are easily rectified and you don’t have to head out to the post office to send it off or risk your application getting lost in the post.
However, with an online application, you are also required to send a digital photo for your passport. You can do this in one of three ways: get a friend to take it on a phone, tablet or digital camera; go to a photo shop – they will take your photo and give you a digital copy or code; go to a booth and get a digital code with your printed photos.
For some, taking and uploading a photo may, understandably, be the most daunting aspect of an online application and a part of it worth asking someone for help with. You can find detailed instructions on passport photo requirements at: www.passport.service.gov.uk/help/photo-rules and instructions for uploading your photo are available when you get to that step in the application process.
If you can come to terms with online applications, there are some positives to be drawn from these proposals. According to the government, if the proposals are approved, it will mean, ‘the money collected through fees will contribute to the cost of processing British passport holders as they travel in and out of the country, shifting the burden for paying for these services away from the taxpayer – millions of whom do not currently hold passports.’
In addition, the Home Office said: “These reforms are part of plans by the Home Office to invest £100m on border security and infrastructure next year.”
Secure, efective and efficient
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said: ‘The passport is an invaluable document that allows millions of British people to travel around the world for business and pleasure.
Our priority is to ensure that UK travellers have a secure, effective, and efficient service from the point of application to the time they pass through the UK border and it is only right that we should look at this whole process when setting our fees.
These proposals will ensure that those people who don’t travel abroad are not footing the bill for those who do.’
The proposals are unrelated to the announcement that the colour of the UK passport will be changing in 2019; a change that will be delivered at no additional cost.
So, if you apply for your passport after 27th March, 2018, remember it will be cheaper to go through the process online: online applications will cost £75.50 for adults, while postal applications will cost £85.