Many British expat families are being forced to spend the hot summer season in the Gulf as a 12 year high in passport applications means they face long delays securing documentation for their newborn children to travel back to the UK, Arabian Business has learned.
"Her Majesty's Passport Office took over the processing of all passport applications from British Nationals across the globe in March 2014,” a HM Passport Office spokesperson told Arabian Business in statement.
As a result, British Prime Minister David Cameron said up to 30,000 passport applications have been hit by delays, with expats likely to face the longest delays.
"Overseas applications are now subject to further security checks to align with our processes for domestic applications. These checks can take significantly longer than those made in the UK. We will not issue a passport until all checks have been satisfactorily completed.
"Processing times have therefore increased for UK passport applications submitted overseas. We acknowledge the frustration our customers may be experiencing and will continue to review our guidance on estimated processing times," the statement added.
Cameron said the Passport Agency is currently dealing with about 465,000 renewals and first-time passport requests, and it is sending out around 150,000 passports a week. With passport applications reaching a 12-year high, 250 extra staff have been deployed to help clear the backlog.
While reports in the UK claim tens of thousands of British holidaymakers are being forced to delay or cancel their holidays as a result of the delays, expats based in the Gulf are unable to travel back to the UK and have been faced with excessive delays, especially those with newborn children applying for their first passports.
“Some women have been waiting nearly four months and are furious. Some have given their kids their husband's nationality rather than British - Italian and South Africa in two cases - just to try and get a passport,” one Dubai-based mother with a two month old baby told Arabian Business.
“Those of us with new babies face daily fines of up to AED100 once our visa grace period of 120 days is over, because we can't get our kids visas without passports. I strongly suspect the UK passport office doesn't have targets for overseas Brits in terms of how quickly they have to turn around their passport applications - for UK-based Brits, it's three weeks - so expats are getting the worst of it,” she added.
Another Dubai-based mother said she had been waiting eight weeks for her applicant to be processed and was still hoping she will not have to cancel her travel plans back to the UK and she and her newborn child won’t be stranded in the UAE for the hot summer months.
“I haven't cancelled my flights yet but we are preparing ourselves for that. Am just about to ring the passport office for an update as I am now officially 8 weeks waiting and was told I could only really get some 'progress information' once I'd hit that waiting time.
“I lodged a complaint with them and was told that someone would call me back within 3 working days. Nobody has. Since then I have written to the CEO Paul Pugh [the interim chief executive of the Passport Office] to complain and not received a response. I am now about to write to David Cameron,” she added.
When Arabian Business contacted the British Embassy in Dubai to ask what they were doing to help expat mothers facing such long delays it declined to comment.
A Passport Agency spokesperson was asked to comment on the delays facing expat mothers but said it was unlikely it would have time to respond.