How to get a new UK passport

Joanna Whitehead
Good to go: applying for a passport can be stressful: istock/Getty

With sun-filled days imminent (right? RIGHT?), you should probably have sorted your holiday plans by now – but if you’ve left it until the last minute, here’s what you need to do to ensure that you don’t miss out on that well-earned break.

How much will a new passport cost?

A standard 34-page adult passport costs £75.50, a jumbo 50-page adult passport costs £85.50, a child’s passport costs £49 and for those born before 2 September 1929 can obtain passports for free. These fees are for online applications only – expect to pay approximately £10 more if you choose to complete a paper application.

Renewing or replacing an adult passport

If you’re in the UK you can renew or replace your passport and change the details on your passport. This should take approximately three weeks, but may take longer if your application hasn’t been completed correctly.

You can track your passport application immediately if you apply online, or after three weeks if you apply by post.

Your new passport will be sent to you by courier or Royal Mail. They’ll either post it through your letterbox, hand it to you if you’re at home, or leave a card or post a letter saying how you can get it (it won’t state the package is your passport).

How to renew or replace a passport urgently

Many countries now require visitors to have at least six months validity on their passport before entering the country. These include popular destinations such as Singapore, Mexico, Canada, China, Thailand and Brazil. Before booking your holiday, it’s always worth checking with your destination country’s consulate or the UK’s Foreign Office advice to double-check any entry requirements, as these can change.

If you’ve booked your flights and made the horrifying discovery that you don’t have enough time remaining on your passport, fear not. You’re not alone, and there are a number of options available to you.

Firstly, you’ll need to book a passport office appointment, attend in person and pay online; appointments can be booked up to three weeks in advance. However, bear in mind there are some situations where you can’t get a same day passport renewal, such as if your passport is deemed too damaged.

Fast-track options include:

Paper premium

With this service, you usually get your new passport four hours after your appointment. You can use this service to renew an adult passport or change the name on your passport (providing you can produce the relevant documentation, such as a marriage certificate). This option costs £177.

Online premium

This option enables you to get your new passport at your appointment. Appointments last up to 30 minutes and you can use this service to renew an adult passport. Bear in mind that the earliest you can get an appointment is two days from when you apply. This option costs £177.

One week fast track

This service delivers a new passport to your home within one week of your appointment, which means someone might need to be home to sign for it. This option costs £142 for a standard adult passport or £122 for a child’s passport. You can use this option to:

  • Renew an adult or child passport
  • Change your name on your passport
  • Make changes to your personal details, such as your gender
  • Replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport
  • Apply for a first child passport

If you’ve already applied for a passport, you may be able to upgrade an existing passport application in exceptional circumstances. Call the passport advice line on 0300 222 0000 for more information.

Where are the passport offices based?

There are passport customer service centres in Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport and Peterborough.

How to get your first UK passport

If you’ve never left the UK’s green and pleasant lands until now, how exciting! You must have British nationality to be eligible for a UK passport, which will be valid for 10 years. Getting your first passport should take about six weeks, according to government guidance, but it can take longer. The first rule of obtaining, renewing or replacing your passport: leave sufficient time.

There are three ways to apply for your first passport. Whichever route you take, you’ll be asked some personal details such as:

  • Name, date and place of birth, your address and contact details
  • Details of any existing passports you hold
  • Details to confirm your British nationality, such as details about your parents or grandparents, or information from your naturalisation or registration certificate

Online applicants will need a debit or credit card to pay the £75.50 fee and the facilities to print the declaration form, which will require signing and posting.

As with passport renewals and replacements, you’ll be charged £85 if you want to make a paper application, with forms available from your local post office.

Finally, you can contact the passport advice line to get a form posted to you.

Photos and documents required

You must include two identical photographs with your passport application. There are stringent rules to comply with when identifying suitable passport photos, details of which you can find here.

You must also include supporting documentation, such as birth certificates, details of which you can find here.

Countersigned applications

There are some circumstances where your application form and photos require a countersignature – the signature of someone else who can prove your identity. You must get these signed if you’re applying for the following:

  • First adult passport
  • First child passport
  • Replacement for a lost, stolen or damaged passport
  • Renewal of a passport for a child aged 11 or under
  • Renewal of a passport if your appearance has changed and you can’t be recognised from your existing passport

Your countersignatory must:

  • Have known the person applying for at least two years
  • Be able to identify the person applying, for example, a friend, neighbour or colleague, not just someone who knows them professionally
  • Be “a person of good standing in their community” or work in (or be retired from) a recognised profession

Your countersignatory must not:

  • Be related by birth or marriage
  • Be in a relationship with, or live at the same address as, the person applying

By signing your form, your countersignatory is confirming that the details are correct, you’re who you claim to be and that the information you’ve provided on the form is correct.

On the back of one of your passport photos, your countersignatory should write:

“I certify that this is a true likeness of [title and full name of adult or child who is applying for the passport]”.

They must then sign and date underneath this statement. The passport applicant does not have to sign or date the photos.

It’s possible that HM Passport Office may contact your countersignatory for more information and that your application may be delayed if they’re unavailable, for example if they’re on holiday.

Passport check and send service

Some post offices can check your passport application to ensure that all the correct sections have been completed, that you have all the supporting documents and that you have paid the correct fee – this is called ‘check and send’. You can only use this if you have completed a paper application. Your application will then be sent to HM Passport Office special delivery and is usually faster than posting your own application. There is a £9.75 fee for this service, in addition to the cost of your passport.

For all other information about obtaining a passport, including cancelling a lost or stolen passport or applying for a child’s passport, head to the government’s webpage.

Bon voyage!