British expats face delays in obtaining replacement passports

UK strike action could mean British expats in Thailand will wait longer for a new passport.

Imminent strike action by passport staff in UK could affect the waiting time for new passports in Thailand or elsewhere. The current process here requires Brits, in person or by authorized proxy, to show documentation at Trendy House in Bangkok for onward dispatch to UK for processing and completion. However, the British embassy website has not changed its advice that passport renewals take around 11 weeks “but could be longer”.

The UK employs 4,000 passport staff, although the industrial action for better pay involves only about a quarter of them. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, said she did not expect undue delays as most routine applications were completed ahead of time. Jessataporn Bunnag, who owns a Pattaya law firm which handles many passport applications on behalf of customers, said waiting times for renewals were currently about eight weeks. But he added that first time applications and passports for children took longer because of documentary checks by the Home Office.

The problem for overseas renewals is that the spring months, April and May in particular, are the busiest time as many Brits prepare for summer vacations abroad. During the Covid crisis, waiting times almost doubled as working hours in UK were drastically curtailed. A spokeswoman for Thai immigration advised Brits to apply for replacement visas early, pointing out that visas cannot be extended beyond the passport validity and entry to Thailand requires a minimum of six months still remaining before expiry.

Some countries now allow expats to renew passports by mail without an embassy visit. The US embassy promises only a two weeks processing period for most applications. British embassies worldwide ceased issuing ordinary passports over 15 years ago as a cost-saving exercise by London. However, they still issue “emergency” passports to enable stranded Brits to return home in a crisis. They can also certify a British passport, a process sometimes required by foreign banks and immigration authorities.