“ Several offices in the UK to provide passport services. „
We put in a application for 1st british passports on 3rd of August for my partner, myself & my 2 kids. My partner had his interview at the end of August & got his passport delivered 2 days later! My interview was booked for 4th September so we booked our holiday for 6 in Ibiza flying out in the early hours of the 19th September..I then recieved a phone call from the Durham office saying the interview was cancelled & the documents that were in the post to me they would need back as they released them by accident & hadn't finished all the checks. I explained that on the basis of me having an interview & my partner recieving his passport just 2 days after his interview, we had booked our holiday & I was told I had nothing to worry about & I'd get our passports in time as they weren't at all busy now. I eventually recieved the documents back & sent them special next day delivery to arrive last Thursday by 1pm. Told them they would be with them by 1pm & he still said I had nothing to worry about & we would get our passports in time. I phoned yesterday & they couldn't find my application with my reference number from my check & send reciept or by punching in my name & D.O.B to their computer so se said someone would phone me back....They did & I was told they were still doing checks & it was unlikely I will get our passports in time due to them still being very busy. There is absolutly nothing I can do to speed things up & their mistake has cost my parents almost 4 grand in a holiday we cant go on & a lot of heart ache. Me & the children have never been on holiday before & that once in a life time chance has now been taken away from us. We are completely devestated & have nobody to complain to or talk to to try & get this sorted out in time
I went to the BELFAST Identity & Passport office to renew my passport which had still 4 months left on it.
According to the booklet that you get with your application form this can be done with up to 9 months left on the passport.
After 2 weeks I received my original passport back with the 2 corners cut off and a few days later my new passport arrived. After looking at the dates i found that they had not credited me with the 4 months. I went down to the office and asked why and was told "because the corner of the original passport had been damaged" but guess what "THEY HAD CUT THIS OFF".
I asked the reception could I discuss this with a manager and was told that I would have to put the complaint in writing and enclose my current and previous passports and the process would take upto 6 weeks as it had to go to Newport for to be examined.
How can you examine something that has already been removed by the Identity & Passport office.
I have just paid £79.00 for a passport that should have been valid for 10 years and 4 months and infact got 1 for 10 years.
Is this another Government Money making scam ?
Has anyone else had this happen ?
I had to apply for a new passport....not because my other passport is able to expire, but instead because I've run out of pages and so there is no where left to stamp. It kind of bugs me that the Passport Service requires me to purchase a whole new 10 year passport and that, unlike USA passports, it is unable to simply add new pages to your passport if it is still in date. Anyway, moaning aside, if I wanted to travel then I needed to get a new passport.
The options were the traditional passport application (up to 6 weeks), the Fast Track passport application (1 week) or the Premium Service (1 day). As I am traveling in two weeks and I didn't really want to risk getting documents lost in the post, I decided to opt for the Premium Service which involved me traveling to one of the Passport offices dotted about the UK. I just got back from doing this about ten minutes ago, and hurrah....I do have a brand new passport.
Basically, the Premium Service involved me phoning for an appointment ahead of time (they don't do same day appointments) and then I was given an allocated time slot - as well as which passport office I was required to visit. I needed to travel to Newport, which is the nearest Passport Office to me - and luckily it only took me about an hour on the train. The train station is very conveniently located for this Passport Office and it was really well signposted.
Basically everything went according to plan. I needed to take the necessary documents with me....a passport application form, two photos and my old passport. Having said that, when I actually arrived at the passport office, there were copies of the passport forms there, as well as somewhere to get your photo done if I had forgotten! Luckily, I hadn't. I arrived at the Passport Office about 5 minutes before my allocated time, and had to pass through security - which happened very quickly. I was then given a number and told to go to the fourth floor and wait for my number to be called out.
There is a large seated waiting room which is perfectly comfortable. I would say I only had to wait about 5 minutes for them to call out my number - and then I went up to the counter where they checked my documents. I then had to go to the cashier to pay - and was given a time to return to collect my passport - which was 4 hours after I'd submitted it. This was as explained on the Identity and Passport Service website.
The staff at the Passport Office were all very courteous and polite and I was quite impressed by them. I'm used to customs services being a bit surly and grouchy, but actually these guys were very pleasant and had good customer service skills.
I returned to the Passport Office 4 hours later and literally walked straight in (via security again) to pick up my passport which was ready and waiting. It was a very smooth service and I would recommend it to anything. The only downside of such great and prompt service is the cost......which is £129 for the Premium Service. However, I reasoned that actually this is only something that I will need to do every 8 - 10 years and so I was willing to pay the extra for just getting it done and not having to hang about worrying whether the passport will come in time!
A good service. I could not really fault the premium service.
***This is my review on renewing a child's passport.***
On being over obsessive about where my passports are in the lead up to our holiday next month, I thought I had better check they were where I thought they were.
Of course they were and on looking at my children's sweet little faces I realised that they did look quite young and on checking the dates I found to my dismay that they had actually ran out in January this year. SHOCK! And then Panic! I did have 5 weeks until we fly but I had this impression that it could take over a month to get the passports back.
On looking at www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Passports/index.htm website my first thought was how much is this going to cost? I had two children's passports to renew and I knew this wasn't going to be cheap. This site has an abundance of information from a timetable of turnaround to fees, to what documents you will need to send.
On looking at the fees, I found that to renew a child's passport was going to cost me £49 each. (£77.50 for adults) You could pay £96.50 for a one week fast track if it is urgent or a £109.50 for a one day service.
So I now needed to fill out an application form. This can conveniently be done online where you fill out all the information required and they then print it off and post it to you, for you to sign and get it countersigned and sent back with two photos (one countersigned)
You can collect one from a post office and write out the form and do the same as above or you can ring Passport Advice line 0300 222 0000 or request one online and ask them to send you one.
You can also use the post office Check and Send and all these options above have external links from the direct.gov website.
I filled out the application online and with two days it was on my doorstep, all printed out and ready to sign. I then had to get the children's photos done (at a cost of £4 each) and signed by a professional person or someone of good standing that has known you, the adult, for more than two years.
They also have to sign section 10 of the application form. This was done by my boss although my neighbour who is a health visitor could also do it.
As this is a renewal I did not need to send any other documents apart from their old passport, so included in my return envelope (sent with the form) was the form, the 2 photos and their passports, along with the direct debit forms filled out with payment details. This form was at the back of the information leaflet. You can also pay by cheque and postal order when applying by post or pay cash at the post office if you are using their service.
I sent the pack by recorded delivery but they do advise you send it special delivery. As I wasn't in a great rush for it and SD would have cost me over £5 I decided just to use recorded.
On sending the pack back I sat and waited but I didn't have to wait too long. Two days later the fees had been taken out of my bank so I was relieved that it had been received OK. Three days later I received the old passports back with a cut off corner.
Only one day later the new passports were on my doorstep!
In total from the panic stages of realising they needed new passports to receiving new ones it took just under 2 weeks and this is using the normal service and no extra fees. From sending the form back it only took 6 days to return the new ones.
I am extremely impressed (if not relieved) at the quick turnaround. I was expecting to wait at least another week or two. I also like the fact that you can enter the information online and it is all printed out for you, this saves a lot of hassle. You do need to know the parents passport numbers to fill out the form along with all the other relevant info (full name, address, nationality, DOB etc) I only knew my passport number and so did not fill out this for their father but that did not cause a problem.
Obviously the only downside is the cost and the fact that you have to have the photos to the correct standard which is not easy where kids are concerned and at at least £4 each for a tiny photo it's another cost to consider.
Overall I cannot fault the service at all and all the information regarding any point of passports can be found easily on the direct.gov website. I found this site a great source of information with external links that were easy to follow.
The online application is a great asset and I can imagine that is better for the passport office also.
I would not recommend chancing that your passports will come this quick on the normal service though as it is not a definite unless you use the fast track services.
only four stars because of the ever increasing fees.
We are off to Menorca on holiday in July and our newest addition baby Autumn needed her first passport. Autumn is only 8 months old so I obviously had to apply on her behalf!
When I have applied for passports in the past I have always done it by getting the forms from the Post Office and then using the check and send service at the Post Office to make sure I had done it all correctly as it is well known that the Passport Office will not issue you a passport over the smallest mistake.
This time round I found out that you can now fill in most of the application form online so I gave it a go and found it to be much easier and less stressful.
I filled out all the information needed which is just basic things such as name, contact details, nationality, parents details and passport information and then 3 days later the form arrived in the post with all the information I had entered online filled in already along with a little booklet with information on what I had to send back with the form.
You need to send two passport sized photographs off with the application so off I went to the local chemist expecting it to be a bit stressful but it was super easy - I held Autumn on a stool in front of a white background, she gave the photographer a very blank stare because she was not sure of him and hey presto! I would definitley recommend doing tit this way if you have a baby or young child.
A friend of my mum who works for a bank then had to write on and sign the back of the photo and part of the application form to say she has known me for years, all the directions are in the booklet and that was that done with.
I then had to sign and date a section on the form (always use black pen) and sent off the application form, the signed photo, a non signed photo and my daughters full birth certificate to the passport office along with a cheque for the fee of £49 for the 5 year passport. It is recommended you do this by special delivery at the Post Office.
After around 2 weeks after I had sent the application I received the birth certificate back in the post and then two days later her passport arrived which I thought was really impressive as I was expecting it to be a good months wait. I have known other people that have applied and waited for a lot longer than this so I guess it just depends on how busy the Passport Office is when you apply and I would never advise leaving it to the last minute.
Overall I was really happy with mostly everything to do with our application and the speed in which the passport arrived and being able to fill in the application form online is a brilliant idea and I will be using this method again when I need to renew our passports. The only bad thing is the hefty prices you are charged for the passports, my husband and 4 year old daughter both need to be renewed new year which is going to cost over £126.50.
This review is based on my experience of applying for a childs first passport and I hope it is helpful to you.
There are different application processes for different circumstances so I have included web links and passport prices below.
The United Kingdom Identity and Passport Service - www.ips.gov.uk
Direct Gov Passport Information - www.direct.gov.uk/en/travelandtransport/passports
First adult passport - £77-50
Renew/amend adult passport - £77.50
First child passport - £49
Renew or amend an existing child passport - £49
More prices for other options including fast track are all shown on the Direct Gov website.
I recently had the joy of applying for a child's first passport (who is under 16), therefore this will be the focus of my review.
A passport application form is easy to pick up and can be found at most post offices - you might want to pick up a couple in case something goes wrong the first time (you know it will!). You also receive a little booklet giving you information about how to fill in the form, and help and advice along the way.
The form was pretty easy to fill in - asking basic details like name, address, nationality, then for parents details and either national insurance numbers/NHS numbers/passport numbers also. Depending on your situation different documents will have to be sent - in this case it was the birth and marriage certificate of the child's mother, plus the child's birth certificate, but if you're unsure then there is a number to call in the booklet provided.
Taking a photo is always an issue - they wont be happy if they don't look perfect, but they can't smile, glasses have to be a certain way etc. Make sure you read all of the rules on photos clearly before you go have them taken. You might as well just go to a photo booth in a supermarket - these are generally £4 for four little photos. They aren't the best quality, but they always seem to be accepted! You must send two of these photos, cut to size - and one of these must be written on by the person countersigning.
For a first passport, or if you are changing your photo, you must have someone to countersign the passport. This means they must be happy to provide their details, their passport details etc, and are agreeing that they have known you for a certain period of time. However, this cannot be a family member and must be someone of a certain occupation - there is a list of who can countersign a passport on the www.direct.gov.uk website. A lot of people have hassle finding someone, and end up paying a doctor etc to do this for them. In our case we used a good family friend who owns his own business, and this was seemed as acceptable. If the child is under 16, they are confirming that they have known the parent for a certain period of time, rather than the child.
Passports don't come cheap either - a first child's passport is £49 and a first adult's passport is £77.50, with similar costs for renewal of passports. A child's passport Is valid for five years, therefore even if applied for when 15, the passport will be valid for until they are 20. An adult's passport is valid for 10 years.
After around nine days we received back a letter saying the passport was being processed and also returning out documents. Just a few days later we received the passport. This was a very quick process for us, but I've heard it take much longer for other people. Be sure to apply in the winter when less people are worrying about this - if you apply for your passport in June, it's going to take much longer.
There is a service which means you can get the passport even quicker if it is very urgent, however this is particularly expensive - so don't leave it until the last minute!
I was very pleased with the service we received - I had to make a phone call for some advice at one point and the staff were very kind, otherwise the booklet was very easy to follow and it was easy to fill in the application. The passport arrived quickly and everyone was, and still it, very happy!
This review is for Overall service provided by Passport and Identity Service. I happen to use it twice. First time for my baby's passport and next time my first passport.
For my babies passport, I did not use check and send service. I directly went to the passport centre in Victoria. The staff was very professional and all the instructional were very clear. Also, filling out the form was not to complicated. As a result of this, getting new passport was a breeze. I got my babies passport in less than a week !!
In my case, I decided to go for check & send service in local post office. I think £7 is bit more, but worth considering the peace of mind. After that I was called to attend personal interview after 5 weeks, which was ok but time consuming. I received my new passport in post couple of days after the interview.
In summary, it was not that bad experience, and I do understand the need for extra checks and caution.
Regarding recommendation, one has no other legal option to get british passport !!
This review relates to the passport 'Check and Send' service which is available at 2,500 Post Office branches.
As i'm going on an trip around Europe in April, I thought it was best to renew my passport (which ran out last year) as soon as possible - as there can often be complications when dealing with such an important document.
You can fill out the relevant forms and simply pop them in the post - but I decided that I wanted peace of mind, and therefore chose to use the Post Office's 'Check and Send' service which costs £6.85. I didn't want a situation where I sent off the documents, only to have them sent back to me because of an error on my part.
I did everything I could do at home, filled out my details, and took the photographs myself as I have all the neccessary studio equipment. When taking the pictures, I followed the EXACT directions in the 'How to Fill in your passport application form' booklet which is free in the Post Office. Now, the criteria for passport photos is quite specific, and even goes as far as telling you how big your head has to be in the printed picture (...at least 29mm, and no more than 34mm in height, for those of you who are interested). The complete photo must be exactly 45mm high by 35mm wide, and the background should be slightly cream or grey rather than pure white.
Having adhered to the criteria, I set off to the Post Office with my forms in hand, hoping I had filled in everything correctly. I handed over my documents to the woman serving who began scrutinizing the photos I had taken. I became a little concerned when she produced a magnifying glass and was staring at my picture for two or three minutes. "You're too far away... you'll need to take these again", she claimed. I knew that I wasn't too far away, and decided to do a little experiment. I accepted her claim, and told her I would go and take them again.
I waited an hour or so, and brought my forms back, along with the same photos to a different person serving. Guess what?... the pictures were apparently fine. The rest of the documents were checked, and sent, and I received my new passport two days later.
So what's the moral of the story? well, if you want to use the check and send service, be aware that an overly fussy Post Office employee can make the whole thing a slow process. Now, of course, the person serving may have felt that they were operating in my best interest - however, it was annoying since I followed the exact criteria with the photos. Consistency is all I ask for.
Last month I did something that was a long time coming - I booked a week's holiday, something that I have not been able to do in far too many years now. If that wasn't cause enough for celebration, this particular jaunt happens to be a dream trip to the USA for my honeymoon. Amid all the excitement, however, it dawned on me that we would both need a new passport for this trip, as not only would Other Half not have the requisite six months left on his current passport at the time of travel, but there was also the small issue of me needing my passport to show my new married name (yes, it turns out that I am something of an old-fashioned girl after all). The passport is, I believe, the only official document that will allow you to change your name on it prior to getting married - you can do this up to three months before your wedding, but obviously you then cannot travel on it until you are married. It was therefore time to investigate the red tape that would doubtless surround these requirements; with our booking just a few short weeks away and me generally being a cynical soul when it comes to matters of bureaucracy, I decided I didn't really want to trust the "average three week" (not including postage time) turn around for standard postal passport applications, and the Identity and Passport Service's appointment-only fast track and same day services were too expensive for us to consider unless things got a lot more urgent. That therefore left the Check & Send Service as the best option for us to use to renew our passports, both in terms of time and for peace of mind in getting my slightly more awkward than usual application checked over; this review is based on my experiences of this service.
**What is Check & Send?**
Check & Send is a relatively new option offered by the Post Office in conjunction with the Identity and Passport Service, and offers a service for new and renewable applications that falls between the standard postal application (cost of your passport plus postage) and the urgent appointment-only routes (costing at least £97 for an adult passport and fees) in terms of speed and cost. For a handling charge of £6.85 (on top of the £72 for a standard adult passport), selected Post Offices will double-check your application papers for you to make sure the form has been completed correctly and that you have included all necessary supporting paperwork, then forward the checked application on to the nearest passport office along with the correct passport fee. Using this service, you have a statistically lower chance of your application being rejected than if it wasn't checked, and you should receive your renewed passport within two weeks rather than the three week time frame if you were sending straight in yourself (NB: first time applicants are advised to leave six weeks for this service as they need to be invited for an interview under new rules introduced in June 2007). The Identity and Passport Service recommend that you use the Check & Send service for both new and renewing applications - I hoping this is because it makes things quicker and easier for everyone concerned rather than because they want to generate profits for the Post Office!
**My Experience of the Check & Send Service**
Both myself and Other Half needed to apply for renewed passports - he had a simple renewal of a current passport to do, while I had the potentially more complicated situation of needing to change my name on my passport. We had already collected blank forms from the Post Office (also available online from here: http://www.ips.gov.uk/passport/apply-online.asp) and spent a long afternoon carefully filling them out and gathering together old passports, new photos (the current guidelines on acceptable photos can be found here: http://www.ips.gov.uk/passport/apply-photos.asp) and my completed paperwork from the registrar confirming I was indeed getting married (forms and guidance on this are available here: http://www.ips.gov.uk/passport/apply-amending-married.asp). On December 30th, we visited our nearest Post Office that offered Check & Send (list available at: http://www.ips.gov.uk/passport/apply-post-office-nearest.asp) and hoped everything would go smoothly.
Accessing the service was very easy - it was available at any counter in the Post Office - and we decided to let Other Half go first as his was the easier of the two applications. We handed over his envelope of paperwork and the assistant thoroughly checked it over, then reassembled it in a sealed package, charged the full amount for the passport (£72) plus the handling fee (£6.85) and handed over a receipt that would allow us to track the application's progress online. The whole process took about 5 minutes and was very straightforward. Then it was my turn. I handed over my paperwork and explained that my old passport was made out to Miss Maiden Name, while my current name was Dr Maiden Name and I wanted my new passport to be for Dr Married Name. You see what I mean about things being a bit more complex for me? This certainly threw the assistant. At first she asked to see my marriage certificate, which of course I hadn't got as I wasn't married - she then spent some time insisting that I couldn't have my passport made out in my married name until after my wedding. I politely explained that it was possible to allow people to travel on honeymoon under their new names, and pointed out the form that my registrar had signed. Still looking perplexed, she asked all the nearby assistants if I could do this, leaving me wishing I had brought a print-out of the relevant web page and not looking forward to my next question. Although passports don't show titles (although it is apparently possible to make a specific request for it to read "Dr"), passport forms collect this information; I therefore needed to know if my title change from Miss to Dr since my last passport was going to cause any problems. I had come prepared with paperwork to demonstrate that was entitled to be called Dr and asked if it was necessary to include it with my new application. Cue more problems, confusion and shouting of my personal details up and down the busy Post Office. The final answer was "no", but I didn't not feel terribly reassured. My application had taken 15 minutes to process and I left feeling anxious that it hadn't been handled properly rather than being reassured as I had hoped the service would do.
Nine days after we had sent off our applications I returned home from work intending to see if the online tracking system would work, and was surprised to find two new passports awaiting us in the post. I was even more surprised to find that mine was completely correct - I admit that I had been half expecting the passport office to contact me and ask for paperwork to prove that my title had indeed changed to Dr. Overall I thought this was a very quick and efficient service, although things clearly work better at the Passport Service end of it than at the Post Office end! Other half was also impressed and felt his £6.85 was well spent as it had given him reassurance and a quick result. Although I also got a quick result, the standard of service I got from the Post Office let this system down a bit for me; there needs to be greater training for staff on how to deal with non-standard passport applications, I reckon, as these are the ones where you need the help of a checking service most of all. I would also like for the staff who handle these forms to have a bit more discretion, as I felt quite embarrassed to have my details shouted about like I experienced. It was decent value for money and I would recommend it as a way to get your passport that bit quicker - but the service loses one star from me for the performance of the Post Office.
Note this advice applies only to priority passport renewals by UK citizens - it doesn't cover first passports or anyone whose nationality is more 'complicated'. Other procedures apply in those instances.
===Do you know where your passport is? Do you know when it's due to expire?===
Organised readers will smugly be thinking "Yep, it's in the top drawer, under the insurance paperwork with another 5 years to run". Some readers may be wriggling in their seats slightly uncomfortably thinking "Well I know where it should be but I'm not completely sure and it must be due to run out soon because I still had hair/didn't have wrinkles/had that ridiculous make-up when the photo was done". Or maybe one or two of you are going to spend a few hours worrying because you really can't remember where you put it or when it runs out.
Recently my neighbours had to cancel their holiday when their passports got caught up in a strike or some kind of delay at the passport office. A lady I once worked with had to cancel her family holiday when she realised the day before she was going that her youngest child didn't have a passport at all (apparently it's not the afterbirth that comes out after the baby - it's your memory) and I've also known people to lose or have their passports stolen. An ex-boyfriend went round Africa with his in a money belt and sweated so badly that all the ink ran and it was unusable (sweaty boyfriend = ex-boyfriend, you notice!).
Personally, I know exactly where my passports are - one's in my handbag, the other's in the bureau at home. So how could I - someone who's had two passports for about 15 years - get into the situation of needing to do a same-day service application at the passport office? Surely I should know better and have been able to plan to get my reserve passport renewed without having to go to the additional expense of a same-day issue. In fact, the circumstances were not so much down to bad planning, but more a case of just needing the convenience of a quick turnaround.
Some aspects of my application were very organised. I went online to fill in all my details and the IPS (no longer called the Passport Office - it's now the Identity and Passport Service) sent me through the printed form with the notes about what I needed to send them and how to do it. Then it all went a bit pear-shaped. Just as I was about to send off my old expired passport, I read the line stating that all current passports would need to be sent. My assumption that I could just send the expired one and keep the second one which I needed for a trip that week, was completely wrong.
To give them credit, I eventually got through to the passport help line which - amazingly - has nice real human beings available at all hours of the day and night. A very pleasant gentleman told me that if I wrote a covering letter explaining that I couldn't send the second passport because I needed it for work, I'd probably be OK. The trouble was that 'probably' wasn't good enough and, with it being an application for a second passport which is something that's still relatively unusual, I wasn't entirely sure that our secretary's letter of justification was going to swing it. Added to this, I needed to send my passport away for an Indian visa for our forthcoming holiday and had just realised that it might also have to go off for a Bhutanese visa as well. Hubby was turning purple because he'd had so really suffer last year over getting the Indian visas (there's a review about that experience as well) so in the interests of avoiding a 'domestic', I decided to go to the passport office and sort it out once and for all.
===Making the Appointment==
The first thing you need to know is that you can't just turn up at a passport office - you have to make an appointment and that's non-negotiable. No appointment means you won't even get through the door. Getting one requires a call to the helpline number on the website and the patience to sit through lots of button pressing and listening to recorded messages. Once I got a human, I explained that I needed a premium service and asked if I could choose which passport office I attended. This might sound daft but I live closest to Peterborough office but work closest to Liverpool, so which one would be needed was going to depend on whether they could give me the date I wanted. I asked to have the latest possible appointment a few days later at Peterborough and was given a 12.30 appointment and a reference code which I was told I would need in order to get into the passport office. I was also asked if I wanted my confirmation by mail or email and since I was about to leave for the airport and wouldn't be home for a letter, I asked for email.
Sure enough, shortly after I had my confirmation email.
===Some local info on Peterborough Passport Office===
I worked in Peterborough for 18 months and learned that there are only two good reasons to visit the city (apologies to those who live there, but a lot have said before that they agree) - the first is the spectacular cathedral and the second is the passport office. Bear this in mind because if you are travelling there from afar you'll have a few hours to kill and you might want to go with a plan of action. With 4 hours to spare, I'd recommend the cathedral and then a speedy escape to somewhere like Oundle or Stanford unless you particularly enjoy pound shops.
Recognising that the passport office is one of the city's key attractions, the local signposting is really helpful in directing you to the right place. There's a multi-storey car park beside Peterborough market which is the closest place to park for the Passport office. It's a 'Pay and Display' which is a blatant way for the council to play on your fears about how long you might need because once you are in the office, it's not easy to escape and come back to add another half hour to your parking ticket. If you are arriving shortly before your allotted time, I think a one hour ticket ought to be enough unless you are planning to stick around all day waiting for your passport whilst you 'see the sight' of Peterborough (like I said, there's only the one!). Also, take care to note which floor you are - first time I used that car park I actually thought my car had been stolen - it took me 30 minutes to find it.
===What happens at the Passport Office?===
When you booked your appointment, you would have been told not to turn up more than 10 minutes before your allotted time. Don't be tempted to go too early as they won't let you in. I was there about 15 minutes ahead and waited patiently for them to start letting people through on the dot of 12.30. Two ladies in the line behind me were getting utterly stressed because one of them had a manicure set in her capacious handbag and in order to get in to the office you have to pass through an airport-style security check. So tip number one - don't go to the passport office with your toolbox, beauty kit, collection of knives or other weapons. Treat it as you would an airport although you won't have to take your shoes off. I suggested to the ladies to just ask the security guy to look after their 'weapons' until they had finished. You also MUST take your confirmation letter or email or they won't let you in.
Through the security check and the next stage is to go to the reception desk and show the guy on duty that you already have your photographs. He won't give you a number for going to the main desks until he's happy that your photos are in order - so no photos with smiling, no winking, no hair over your eyes, glasses, baseball hats and so on. If he's happy he'll give you a number and you can take a seat.
I was issued with my number and there was only one other person ahead of me so there was no time to settle down with the crossword. About two minutes later my number came up and I went to the counter, the lady checked my passport and my form and gave me an invoice to pay. Because I have the second passport she took a photocopy of that as well. Despite being told to take lots of identification (yeah, like a passport isn't enough!) she said they very rarely check the utility bills, driving licenses etc when applicants come in person. This may be worth keeping in mind because I found it really hard - now that so many of our bills are handled on-line - to track down in-date bills.
I next waited one or two minutes at the cashier's desk to pay for my passport - it would have been quicker but someone in front needed change for the photo booth. I used my credit card and they are happy to take the usual forms of payment such as cash, credit or debit card, postal orders and even cheques with a guarantee card.
In total once I'd got through the security check, I was in and out in under ten minutes and well within my hour for the car park. Throughout my visit the waiting board showed that there were never more than 3 people in the queue. It might help to know my application was done in mid-August which isn't a particularly quiet time for emergency applications. By controlling the number of appointments, the Passport Office seem to have everything pretty much under control.
Standard collection procedures are to turn up 4 hours after the time on your payment receipt. Knowing the area well - and hence knowing there wasn't anything I particularly wanted to do - I picked up some lunch, set off to a park on the outskirts of town, parked up with a book and a newspaper and settled down to wait. After about an hour and a half, I got a call on my mobile from the Passport Office. My old passport had a special message on one of the pages and the call was to tell me that they'd forgotten to transfer it to the new one, and did I want them to start again. I asked when the passport would be ready if I didn't get them to start over and when she told me I could probably get it an hour later, I agreed not to bother with the change. Hence, in about two and a half hours, I went back to collect.
When collecting you don't have to go through the rigmarole of security. You just hand in your receipt at a counter at the entrance to the building and a nice man looks through a box of envelopes and hands you your new passport. Knowing this ought to be a very quick process, I parked in the bus stop directly outside, leapt out and grabbed my passport and was off again a couple of minutes later.
===Is it worth it?===
I won't go into too much detail on the costs of passports as they change every year and for some reason, people seem to get irate about the cost. However, for the same day service, the cost at the time of writing (September 2009) is £38 on top of the normal passport charges. There is also a one week priority service - make an appointment and follow the same procedure at the office but go back and collect 7 days later instead of 4 hours - for which the supplement is currently £20.
In the last 15 years I've done four priority passport applications - three at Peterborough and one at Liverpool (admittedly most of them paid by companies I've worked for); one on one-week turnaround and three on same day. This time I decided to part with my own cash and for me, the convenience and security of knowing my passport doesn't go outside the four walls of the Passport Office is well worth the cost. Added to this the botheration factor of being without my passport for 2 weeks or more is really tiresome. It was trying to find a period when I didn't need my passports that led to me letting the spare one expire.
However if you travel rarely and plan well ahead, then you can leave it to the post office to look after your documents and save the money. If you should ever find yourself in a situation of realising your passport expired and you can't trust to the luck of the post, then it's good to know that you can fall back on the priority service. It's easy, it's quick and £38 and a trip to the passport office seems like a bit of a bargain compared to losing your holiday or stressing over whether you'll get your passport in time.