I need to fly home from the US but can’t get my passport renewed

I am a British citizen living in the US. I applied for renewal of my British passport four months ago and HM Passport Office confirmed receipt of my old one. More than 16 weeks later, the status update merely says: “We have received your old passport.” My elderly parents live in the UK and are not in good health and I’m unable to make plans to visit them. I am getting desperate.
KR, Edina, Minnesota

PS of Peebles is also desperate. His British daughter also lives in the US and applied for British passports for her children the same week as you. The family was due to move back to the UK imminently, but more than four months on there were still no updates on their application. “My grandson’s US passport has expired and if he doesn’t get the UK one in time they won’t be able to fly,” he writes. “They will essentially be homeless as they have given up their house to move back.”

The Passport Office is currently advising of waits of up to 10 weeks for new passports while it works through a record number of applications following Covid lockdowns. It tells me that it states “clearly” that people applying from overseas should allow longer, but nowhere on the government website can I see where it provides time scales. The Home Office helpfully provided a link, but the section on application details makes no mention of processing times, and the department did not respond when I asked where the information could be found.

However, it told me that applicants from the US should allow up to 11 weeks for a renewal and 13 weeks for a child’s first passport. Both your own and PS’s grandson’s applications have substantially exceeded those.

The passports were issued after I contacted the Home Office – PS’s grandson’s arriving three days before the family’s flight home.

There’s no expedited service for passport applications from overseas, but those with urgent needs can, for a fee, apply to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office for an Emergency Travel Document (ETD). If the passport application has taken two weeks longer than the published processing time (wherever that might be), they can apply to the Passport Office for the ETD fee to be refunded.

HM Passport Office says: “Since April 2021, we’ve clearly stated that people should allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their passport in the UK – and longer if overseas – to factor in the increased demand, which has seen 5 million people delay their passport application due to the pandemic. The overwhelming majority of applications are completed within the published time frame.”

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