Passport applications and renewals: what you need to know

UK passport and boarding pass

Need a new passport this year? Whether it's your child's first passport, or it's time to get yours renewed before going away, find out how to apply and avoid pre-holiday panic

Applying for your first UK passport

You can go online or pick up a form from the Post Office to apply by post for a passport.

How much does a passport cost?

A standard 32-page adult first passport costs £72.50, or £82.25 if you use the Post Office Check & Send service – where someone checks over your application to make sure it's completed correctly before it's sent off.

If it's a jumbo 48-page passport you're after, then it'll cost £85.50 online or by post, or £95.25 for the Check & Send service.

First child passports cost £46, or £55.75 using Check & Send.*

How long does it take to get a passport?

The official timing guideline for a new adult passport is six weeks, however in peak times (January, June and July), you should expect this to take longer.

The published length of time for a child's first passport application is four to six weeks, but our travel Talk forums are full of Mumsnetters whose applications have taken longer, so don't assume this is guaranteed.

Make a note of any reference number you are given – this will allow you to track your passport application.

We had a crisis this year as returning from our Christmas holidays, I left all five of our passports on the plane and had to get them replaced. I used Check & Send and the passports came back after 10 days.

Without a doubt the quickest way to receive a child passport is via an appointment at a Passport Customer Service Centre and application via Fast Track. These centres are located around the UK and the passport will arrive at your home address within a week. A Fast Track application costs more (current fee £87) but you'll have a passport in your hand much quicker.

If you're travelling for an emergency and can speak to someone about your situation, you may find you're able to 'upgrade' your application to speed things along, at a cost.

Filling out the form

Before heading in with your form, check and then check again you are armed with all the correct and completed paperwork. You don't want to get all that way and be sent home empty-handed.

You will need:

  • Two identical passport photos
  • A completed and countersigned passport application form

You'll need to have your passport application countersigned by a professional person such as a doctor, teacher or solicitor in order to confirm your identity. Think carefully about who you are using for this, as any checks will be sent out via letter to their place of work – so if your countersignatory is a teacher and school is closed for the holidays, this will inevitably cause a delay.

Rules for passport photos

Passport photos must be:

  • 45 millimetres high by 35 millimetres wide (the standard size issued by UK photobooths)
  • An orignal photo (not a crop of an existing one)
  • Printed to a professional standard
  • Taken within the last month
  • In colour, on plain photographic paper with no border
  • Clear and in focus
  • Without any creases or tears
  • Unmarked on both sides, unless one needs to be countersigned
  • Unaltered by computer software.

Your passport photos must also:

  • be a clear close-up of your full head and upper shoulders
  • contain no other objects or people
  • be in clear contrast to the background

In your photos you need to:

  • face forward and look straight at the camera
  • have a neutral expression and have your mouth closed
  • have your eyes open and ensure there is no glare from your glasses (if you wear them)
  • keep your hair and any head coverings away from your face
  • avoid red-eye (you'll usually get several attempts in the photobooth as this can be more tricky to avoid)
  • make sure there are no shadows on your face or behind you

Passport photos for children

Getting your kids to sit still can be quite the challenge at the best of times, but especially so when you've used the last of the shrapnel in your back pocket to pay for the photobooth. However, children have to be alone in the picture and babies must not be holding toys or dummies. (We know, we know).

Baby passport photo

On the plus side, if your child is under six years old then they don't have to have a neutral expression or be looking directly at the camera. And if your child is under one, then they don't have to have their eyes open. You're allowed to support their head with your hand so long as your hand is not visible in the photo.

For more information visit the gov.uk website.

Can my passport application be rejected?

Passport applications that are incomplete or where the photos do not meet requirements can be delayed or rejected.

If you want to be sure you've filled in everything correctly, the Post Office has a Check & Send service where your form, photo and any other documents are checked in person before being sent off by Special Delivery. There's a fee for this service, but you know you won't get the form sent back to be completed again.

How will I receive my new passport once it's been processed? Woman passport airport

Your passport will be couriered to you. The courier will either post it through the letterbox or hand it to you if you're home. If you're not in, they will leave a card with instructions of where you can pick it up – this may be at the courier depot or at the local Royal Mail sorting office.

How to renew or amend your passport

The published time to renew an adult passport is three weeks and costs £72.50, or £82.25 through the Post Office's Passport Check and Send service.

Any time left on your old passport is added to your new one, up to nine months, so don't wait until it expires before requesting a renewal.

As with applications, the quickest way to receive your new passport is a visit to the Passport Customer Service Centre (appointments must be made in advance). You'll either then get your passport the same day (premium) or posted to your home address within a week (Fast Track). Centres are located around the UK and you can find your nearest on via the gov.uk website.

Children's passports can be renewed via the Passport Customer Service centre but a premium same-day service is not available.

What to do if passports don't arrive on time

Unfortunately, no passport means no travel so it's best to not book anything unless you're sure your passport is in good nick (ie, it's still valid for six months after you plan to return).

You'll need to speak with your airline/tour operator/hotelier about potentially changing dates, or amending passengers, but there will almost certainly be cancellation/admin charges.

It is highly unlikely that any travel insurance would cover this, but of course do double check.

If you're travelling outside the EU, don't forget your visa/ESTA too.

*All prices checked as of 27/07/2017