A 12-year-old girl from Somerset has been left in tears as she faces missing a family holiday due to delays at the passport office.
Today, (Monday, May 23) marks 11 weeks since Isabelle’s online passport application was submitted and just five days until she is due to travel to Spain. The long-awaited trip with extended family, postponed since 2020, hangs in the balance.
Her brother Will (13) and sister Esme’s (7), applications were submitted on the same day. They received their passports after just five weeks but the delay with Isabelle’s has left the family distraught and facing few options.
Daniel Vincent, Isabelle’s father, said: “We started to get concerned after a further two weeks had passed. Despite dozens of calls to the Passport Office phone number we have never managed to speak to a member of the team. Every time we rang, we hit a recorded message that told us they were very busy and to call back at another time. ”
With just two weeks to go the Vincent family managed to secure a fast track one week passport appointment in London.
Lydia, Isabelle’s mum, said: “We added the link directly to the booking page to our phone home screens, we refreshed the site 50+ times a day. Suddenly 12 appointments became available in London the next day.
“I interrupted Daniel’s Teams meeting and we both tried to secure an appointment. The times were disappearing in front of our eyes! Despite saying that it held the appointment for 15 minutes my phone timed out. Luckily, Daniel was able to book one of the two remaining appointments. ”
Yet it wasn’t the solution to their problems as they hoped. Mr Vincent arrived at the desk in London to be told that you cannot have two applications running at the same time. They were able to confirm that all checks had been completed and the passport was awaiting printing. He was provided with an email address to ask if they could expedite the printing.
“Notwithstanding the huge cost of the appointment and traveling to London, the disappointment was unbelievable, we thought we had found a way to ensure that we had the passport on time,” he said.
The Vincents waited, as instructed, until two weeks before travel to email the Belfast office where Isabelle’s passport was awaiting printing. But 48 hours later they had heard nothing.
Mr Vincent said: “A colleague mentioned they had seen a Facebook post detailing the steps you should take, and the email addresses you should send the request too. It included proof of travel which we had not thought to send before.
“I sent the details across to the 10 email addresses; we received an auto reply from 3 of them. 24 hours later the same message, with the manual addition of our travel dates, came back from the Newport office. The message read: ‘ Upgrade requests are prioritized by date of travel. Therefore, we will be in touch with you as soon as we can, in order to meet your date of travel. ‘ This feels reassuring but we still don’t know what is happening. “
With just seven days to go until they travel, the Vincents contacted their local MP, James Heappey. His team ‘sprang into action’ and, given the short time to travel, agreed to contact the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) – who oversee HM Passport Office.
Mrs Vincent said: “We are left in a state of limbo. The flights, accommodation, car hire and house sitter are booked but we are unable to plan our family trip. It’s impossible to know what to do for the best, I can ‘ t bear the thought of having to unpack cases if we are unable to travel. ”
Mr Vincent added: “We know that there are thousands of people in the same position as us. At the same time, we hear of people receiving their passport having applied only three or four weeks ago.
“In our case, two passports arrived within five weeks, there has clearly been a breakdown in the process for Isabelle’s application. We and the thousands of others affected should not be in this position.”
Isabelle said: “It makes me so sad to think this might not happen. I’ve been thinking about it for months, saving up to have some spending money and I spent all my birthday money on clothes for the trip. All I want is to go on holiday with my family – grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncle. ”
Mr Vincent has today (May 23) gone to queue in line at the passport office in Newport. After two hours 50 minutes he made it to the front.
Mr Vincent, who helps provide care to GP practices, said: “A very kind and understanding team member took all the details and said she would make some calls and come back to me.
“About 10 minutes later she came back. She informed me that the application was in the queue but then pulled to AMS. ‘ I still don’t know what this means! But the passport would not have been printed had she not discovered this.
“She told me that she had spoken with the Belfast team and they will call me to arrange printing and collection. I asked if that might be today, she said she couldn’t tell me. I asked if it was worth waiting in Newport – she suggested it might be a good idea. ”
Mr Vincent has said the whole family is desperate to go on the trip with all their extended family after a terrible two years with Covid. He said if they were unsuccessful in getting the passport then he and his wife will stay behind too but send their eldest, Will (13) with his grandparents.
Bath MP Wera Hobhouse has also kicked off about long delays as her constituents face weeks without their passport.
A HM Passport Office spokesperson said then: “Since April 2021, we’ve clearly stated that people should allow up to ten weeks when applying for their passport to factor in the increased demand, which has seen 5 people million people delay their passport application due to the pandemic.
“The overwhelming majority of applications are completed within 10 weeks, with the latest figures showing 90 per cent were completed within six weeks. But we cannot compromise security checks and people should apply with plenty of time prior to traveling. “
The Home Office has confirmed that Isabelle’s passport has been cleared for issue, and that collection of the document would be agreed with the family. In response to the extended wait time, a spokesperson said that it “cannot compromise” security checks before passports were issued, but that the “overwhelming majority” had been completed within 12 weeks.
A HM Passport Office spokesperson said: “Since April 2021, we’ve clearly stated that people should allow up to ten weeks when applying for their passport to factor in the increased demand, which has seen 5 people million people delay their passport application due to the pandemic.
“The overwhelming majority of applications are completed within 10 weeks, with the latest figures showing 90% were completed within 6 weeks. But we cannot compromise security checks and people should apply with plenty of time prior to traveling. ”