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Volume 14, Issue 02

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1 - 15 October 2014

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Compensation Sought for UK Passport Delays A British House of Commons committee is demanding that British citizens who ended up waiting for three months or more for a new passport should be financially reimbursed. The Passport Agency in UK struggled with 550,000 applications last June and the committee says that many British citizens were left stranded and unable to travel. The MPs also complained that Passport Agency staff had received large cash bonuses in spite of the chaos. Part of the problem was and is that full passports can no longer be issued anywhere in the world except the UK as part of a money-saving initiative to cut staffing by closing some consular sections in embassies abroad. The system is particularly complicated in Thailand where applicants now have to make a personal appearance (or appoint an agent) at Trendy Office in Bangkok, at a time agreed by officials, to hand in and later collect their new passport after the paperwork has been forwarded to UK. In some other countries, postal applications are acceptable but not in Thailand which is believed to have more than its fair share of problems including inadequate or even fake documentation. Currently, the British embassy website is suggesting a two months’ waiting period. Keith Vaz, the House of Commons committee chairman, said “HM Passport Office should lose its agency status and be brought back under direct ministerial control following this appalling series of failures.” He added that there had been a shamefully poor service to an estimated 5.6 million British citizens living abroad. The MPs emphasized that they were particularly concerned that many people

were out of pocket, forced to abandon travel plans or rebook air tickets. Several British applicants in Thailand even made a special trip to UK to take advantage of a supposedly fast-track upgrade there by paying a cash supplement. It is also known that the long delays meant that some British retirees, holding oneyear visas in Thailand, were unable to process their applications in time at Thai Immigration and were forced to leave the country. Another serious problem has now arisen after the Foreign Office website suggested that some people might like to extend the life of their current passport by 12 months rather than be trapped in the long waiting list. It has now emerged that some countries will not recognize such an extended passport. They include

popular destinations such Australia, China, India, the United States, Cyprus, Turkey and the World Cup host country Brazil. The government has now admitted that only 50 countries out of nearly 200 have actually confirmed they will accept extended passports. Vaz commented, “The figures we have reveal that the closure of overseas posts has caused a significant increase in applications. The decision was clearly a wrong one and has been badly managed. The public has been badly let down.” Theresa May, the British home secretary, claimed that only 11 percent of passport applications were taking longer than three weeks to process and added that her officials were still working with foreign Continued on page 6

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Vol 14 issue 02 1 15 october 2014  
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