Passport applications set to triple this summer

Passport applications are expected to more than triple this summer as travellers rush to renew or replace their travel documents for their annual holiday.

Between March and August, applications are expected to rise by more than three times as much as during off-peak winter months, HM Passport Office said, adding that this summer could prove to be one of the busiest yet. In December 2012, there were 175,174 applications, but more than 560,000 are expected this July.

The agency employs additional staff during the summer months but has warned travellers to submit their applications early, giving ample time, as there are only a limited number of appointments for fast track and premium services. Also, customers face up to £55.50 extra in costs for emergency counter services.

Paul Pugh, chief executive of HM Passport Office, said: ‘We are urging travellers not to forget the most important item on your travel checklist this year – your passport. Check it is valid in advance of your trip and don’t book that trip without first ensuring it is in date.

‘We work hard to process more than 5.5 million applications each year, so help us to help you have a smooth trip this year,’ he added.

Customers can renew their passport by filling in a form online, calling the Passport Advice Line and asking them to send a form, or by applying through the Post Office’s ‘Check & Send’ service. Applications can take three weeks to process and up to six weeks for first time applicants, as the process includes an interview.

There is also the option to fast track the application to get the passport renewed in a week or a day, but customers must make an appointment at a Passport Customer Service Centre.

The cost of an adult passport was reduced by £5 last September, to £72.50, but applications via the Post Office cost an extra £8.75. Those looking for a fast track service will pay £103 to get their passport in a week, and £128 to have it rushed through in under 24 hours.

 

Simple precautions can prevent identity theft when travelling

International travel is, for many, a prerequisite of a life well lived and has always carried some risks. In addition to the commonly-accepted risks of unfamiliar geography, alternate sets of laws, and language barriers, the millennium has ushered in some uniquely modern travel risks. Identity theft, and the technology that facilitates its growth, has become a global concern to all.

Thieves – whether small scale or highly organized – know that travelers are out of their regular mode of organization and away from their day-to-day routines and, therefore, may not be as diligent in close track of their possessions or paperwork.

Passport contains an electronic chip inside to help fight fraud and forgery

However, travelers can take some simple precautionary measures that will go far in maintaining a pleasant and peaceful journey. Limiting the extent of information one shares with strangers about travel plans, purchasing a protective “sleeve” for your passport, and using cash whenever possible can all provide heightened security abroad.

Making photocopies of passports, credit cards, and other vital documentation prior to departure can provide backup in emergencies, as long as it is kept in a secure location from the originals. Travelers may also want to carefully consider the risks of posting an out-of-town (or off-the-continent) status on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter – this information can reach beyond one’s circle of friends nearly instantaneously. There has also been some concern about the ability to scan identifying information directly from the wireless “RFID” chip embedded in newer passports; protective products are widely available to shield against this.
Working with long-established service providers with a track record of secure handling and delivery of customer documents can go far in ensuring your trip launches and lands smoothly. In the instance that a passport or an airline ticket goes missing or is lost or stolen, seasoned travel agents, tour guides, and travel documentation professionals can all provide expertise and immediate guidance on proceeding safely.
Dean Orbell of Travel Document Systems, Inc. added: “Consumers can take some simple steps to protect their critical travel documentation when overseas. We encourage our customers to treat their passports as they would any other high-value item. Should passports be lost or stolen, we can assist in replacing those upon return to the US, but to protect their identity, travelers should always contact the US Embassy or Consular office in the region of travel as soon as possible.”
Travel experts almost universally conclude that no matter the time or place, maintaining awareness of your surroundings and of those whom you do business with, continue to serve as a traveler’s top strategy for document safety.

 

Ensure summer safety with a current passport for your child

The advent of the summer season brings schoolchildren, newly released from the confines of the classroom, ready to explore the outside world, make new friends, and enjoy new experiences. Summer is a time when families can reconnect, enjoy quality time together, and create lasting memories.

Modern parents now recognize the great benefits of bringing children along on summer travels, whether near or far. Elementary school-aged children are at a wonderful juncture to absorb the many and varied experiences which travel abroad provides. From vastly different cuisine to the richness of new climates and languages, children will recall the wonder of these new experiences for many years to come. High-schoolers may gain lasting impressions from the “culture shock” of many days immersed in locales without wireless Internet or familiar foods.

Increasingly complicated regulations for air travel can put a damper on plans to capture these fleeting summer days exploring new cultures as a family. In addition to the practical logistics of planning any journey, many parents remain unaware that passports must be obtained for each family member, including children of all ages, as well as infants. In addition, most parents are not aware that a very specific subset of regulations applies to obtaining passports for their children. Parents or a legal guardian must present valid evidence of a child’s US citizenship, present valid personal identification, provide evidence of parental relation or legal guardianship, and take a signed oath, in person, before an authorized passport agent. Further information pertaining to passports for minors are available for consumers on the US State Department website at www. travel.state.gov .

Once these required steps have been completed, a child’s passport is then subject to the standard federal processing time of 4-6 weeks. Utilizing a passport expediter while preparing for a family vacation can not only help speed along a lengthy “to do” list, it can ensure that the passport application and delivery process are supervised by qualified professionals. Travel Document Systems, Inc. Vice President, Dean Orbell, noted:

“Most parents don’t realize that stringent travel documentation requirements extend to the whole family, and are surprised when they learn that obtaining proper documentation for their young children can be a major roadblock to successful family vacations. We are delighted to assist so many customers annually with fulfilling their child passport needs.”

Travel experts highly recommend asking children to pitch in with trip planning. Helping to choose an itinerary, to pack their own bags, and to decide some of the daily activities can all positively engage children in their trip abroad. With preparation and qualified professional assistance, international vacations can be delightful for the whole family.