British passport backlog in Washington causes expat outcry 

British citizens living in America are becoming increasingly angry at delays in the processing of their passports.

By Leah Hyslop
1:19PM BST 28 Jun 2011

The British Embassy in Washington DC, which handles passports for British citizens living in North and South America, as well as the Caribbean, usually turns around first-time applications for passports within six weeks, and renewals within four weeks, from the date it processes the application fee.
An unexpected surge in demand however means that many expats are now facing a far longer wait, causing problems for those who have booked holidays, or have urgent business to attend to abroad.
Notices on the website of the embassy apologise for the delays, and say that current applicants should expect their passports to take around 10 weeks from the time their credit card is charged.
Stephen Kemp, a British expat who has set up a petition calling for a government investigation into the matter, said however that because it was taking up to six weeks just to process the payments, some Britons would be waiting for around four months in total.

“Meanwhile you have people with sick or dying relatives, people trying to start new jobs, and business people trying to travel, who thought they had time to get a simple renewal," he said. "Four weeks is ample time to process; four months is mismanagement.”

 Many expats have turned to the internet to vent their anger, with members of the British Expat forum labelling the delays “unbelievable” and “unacceptable”.
British citizens who need to travel urgently do have the option of organising an Emergency Travel Document, or ETD, but Mr Kemp said it was not an easy solution. “It’s fine if you want to pay the additional $157 on top of what you already spent for your passport, but on top of that you need to do it in person, and not everyone is within easy distance of an embassy.”
Delays are also being experienced in Düsseldorf, where passports are processed for British citizens in a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East.
A spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service said: "Delays in Washington and Düsseldorf are isolated incidents caused by an increase in demand. We are working hard to meet this extra demand and apologise to customers who are experiencing delays.

"All other processing centres are delivering passports within the advertised turnaround times.”   

June 22, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - If you're a British citizen living in the United States, it could take up to three weeks to get a new passport or renew your old one. The British Embassy says the delay is due to a massive spike in applications, and it's causing big problems for Brits trying to travel overseas this summer.
Diane Hill and her two teenage daughters spent Wednesday morning at the British Embassy trying to renew their passports. They need them for two reasons. One, they've already booked a summer vacation overseas.
"Our plane tickets are $5,000 just the three of us," said Hill.
The other reason is that Hill's mother has just been diagnosed with cancer and she wants to visit her. Hill submitted her application via certified mail on March 31st. Nearly twelve weeks later, there was still no word on the status of her application.
"I'm disgusted by the service we're getting to be honest," said Hill.
A spokeswoman for the British Embassy blames the delay on a spike in demand: "We apologise for the delays in processing passport applications and ask that customers please bear with us as we work to resolve the situation. In the last two months, the Washington Regional Passport Processing Centre (RPPC) has experienced a particularly large surge in demand for passports. Passport applications in Washington may currently take around ten weeks, from the date the application reaches our office. We know that May to September is traditionally the busiest time for passport applications and to meet the surge in demand we have deployed additional staff in our Washington office. The FCO website clearly advises customers that they should allow plenty of time to renew a passport and should not book travel until their passport has been returned to them." 

Hill is not alone in her frustration. Keisha Joseph, 20, is an exchange student in Washington, and she, too, is having problems getting her passport in time.
"I lost my passport, and they're saying it is going to take a longer than the urgency of my travel to replace it," said Joseph.
When 9NEWS NOW tried to speak with someone inside the passport office, a security guard said no one inside would be willing to talk. But three hours later, we received a call from the spokeswoman at the British Embassy who said, "The situation with Diane had been resolved. She will be receiving her passport in time for her trip." 

Still, the backlog will likely continue to affect plenty of other British citizens trying to travel overseas this summer. Until the problem is fixed, the British Embassy is advising all citizens to not book any overseas travel until they have received their passports.