A few weeks before our trip to Portofelice in Italy, I began to prepare our documentation and realised that my husband required a passport renewal. Luckily I always do this in plenty of time after a very close call seven years ago, when my daughters renewal took over six weeks to arrive. After a lot of phone calls to the passport office, they managed to get it to us on the day that we were travelling to Tenerife, but it was certainly a very stressful time that I don't wish to experience again. This is also why the government website specifically tells you NOT to book travel until you have a valid passport and it was certainly a lesson learnt in our case.
Photo Credit: Kyle Glenn on Unsplash.comWe used to be able to pick up the usual forms from the post office just down the road, but apparently in the last couple of years they have stopped providing these and request that you go to your nearest large branch instead, which in our case is a half an hour round trip. We would then need to make an appointment at this particular branch to use the check and send service. It all seemed a bit inconvenient and it was going to be a struggle to even collect the forms during working hours, but at the same time we do understand why these processes are in place.
My husband therefore went to get his passport photos taken, which I think are extremely expensive for what they are. Our nearest photo booth is £6, but a lot of photography stores have caught on to the idea that people want to be assured that their photo is correct. I got several quotes from shops in the area that offered a passport photo service and their prices ranged from £9.99 to £14.99!
Having had plenty of ID photos taken previously, my husband was quite confident that he could get it correct in the photo booth, so popped down to our local supermarket to have them done. He returned home shortly afterwards with some interesting news and told me that it was now possible to renew your passport online. I had heard of this previously, but when I had looked into it a few years ago "renewing online" literally just meant that you filled the forms in and then still had to print them off and submit everything by post......but not anymore! We also found out that you can also take your own photographs on your digital camera or smartphone as long as they adhere to the usual passport digital photograph rules.
Placed along the top of our digital photographs was a code and my husband explained that you could now apply online and by entering the code it would bring up the passport photo on the screen. Genius! Not only that, but if it is an adult renewal and your appearance hasn't significantly changed, then you also don't need to have the photographs countersigned. This can be a struggle in itself if you don't know anyone with a qualifying profession to sign it for you.
I therefore went on the Gov.uk website to find out how we could submit the application, how long it would take and also how much it would cost. The charge for the online service is £75.50 in comparison to £85 for using the postal service (£94.75 if you also use the post office check and send service). I was therefore pleased to find that not only was this service much more convenient for us, but it was also cheaper.
The website stated that renewals online usually take three weeks to complete, which I thought was reasonable given that it is peak season and so my husband set about filling in the online form. This was a really simple process with no over complicated questions. He was then asked to upload his photograph and so he simply inserted the code from the top of his photos and it brought the image up online. Their system then checks the photograph to make sure it complies with the requirements and will bring up an error message if it detects anything wrong. In our case the image was fine, so he continued with the application.
Once it had all been completed, we made the payment and instantly received confirmation of the application along with a reference number that would allow us to track the progress of it online. An address was also provided for us to post back my husband's old passport. In order to prevent any delays, I paid for the old passport to be sent by next day special delivery, but you can send it via normal unregistered post if you wish.
Now that everything had been submitted, it was simply a case of waiting for updates and for the new passport to arrive. My husband received regular emails and text messages which kept him fully informed and he received his brand new passport only 14 days after applying. The full timeline was as follows:
Application submitted - 6.49pm on 26th April 2018
Application received - 6:49pm on 26th April 2018
Old Passport received - 9:28am on 2 May 2018
Joined processing queue - 8.33am on 3rd May 2018
Application approved - 9:36am on 7th May 2018
Passport printed and sent - 9:41pm on 8th May 2018
Passport received - 10th May 2018
The whole process was really quick, simple and most of all stress free. There are certain requirements that are needed to be able to do your renewal online and so it is important to read the full government guidelines on the official website here: www.gov.uk/renew-adult-passport. However, if you are eligible to use the online renewal application service, then I would definitely recommend it. We found the service to be great and we were really pleased with the speedy and efficient delivery of the new passport.
Disclaimer: This review is based on our own experience only and processing times can vary based on individual circumstances. It is important to check the full government guidelines on the passport renewal website in order to obtain the most up to date and accurate information.