Starting next week, Britons living in Qatar will no longer be able to apply for a one-year extension on their passports, the UK’s Home Office has advised.
Instead, after April 10 they have been told they will need to apply to renew their passports “in the standard way,” and should expect to wait a minimum of six weeks from when the application is received in the UK.
Those applying for first passports for adults and children, or the replacement of lost or stolen passports, face a wait of at least eight weeks, according to information posted on the Home Office website.
British authorities introduced the temporary one-year extension to passports in June last year while facing a severe backlog in passport processing.
The delays were prompted by a change in procedure for expats’ passports, and the closure of regional passport offices around the world. Since March last year, British nationals have been required to send their passports to the UK for processing.
However, the Home Office said that as demand for passports are “returning to expected levels” the British home secretary had amended the extension procedures.
After April 10, there will be no appointments issued for passport extensions, although anyone with a confirmed appointment can still proceed with the extension.
Those who have existing passport extensions will be contacted by the British Passport Office at least two months before the expiry of their stamp to remind them to renew their passports, the statement on the Home Office website said.
Turnaround times for passport applications vary, depending on the type of passport applied for and the circumstances around it. According to advice on the Home Office website, expected waiting time for applications are:
- For a first adult or child passport: minimum of eight weeks from receipt of the application by the Passport Office;
- Renewal of lost or stolen adult passport: minimum of eight weeks from receipt of the application by the Passport Office; and
- Renewal of adult passport: Minimum of six weeks from receipt of the application by the Passport Office.
The application could take longer if documents are missing or photographs are rejected, and applicants are warned not to book travel before they have received their passports. the advice adds.
A spokesperson for the British Embassy Doha said:
“Now that overseas turnaround time for passport applications has improved significantly, the Home Office has made the decision to end the temporary passport extension stamp from 10 April.
Applications from British citizens in Doha will take at least six weeks from the point they are received by the Passport Office in the UK, so we encourage all British passport holders in Qatar to apply well in advance of their holidays in order to avoid disruption to their travel plans.”
While some of the 20,000 Brits currently living in Qatar expressed their disappointment at a potentially long wait, others said they had recently received their documents more quickly than expected:
Some Qatar residents pointed out that wait for a new passport for other nationalities is even longer:
— Albert de Wet (@AlbertdeWetESL) April 2, 2015
However, the eight-week turnaround time could continue to be tricky for new parents in Qatar. Babies who are born here must obtain their residency permit within two months, or face daily fines. RPs cannot be obtained without a passport.
Emergency travel documents can still be issued by the British Embassy in Qatar by appointment with the consular section, if a citizen needs to travel urgently and does not have a valid passport.
While such documents are not generally issued to babies without a British passport, applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, an embassy spokesperson told Doha News.
The emergency documents are only valid for one-way travel to the UK or other countries that accept them, and citizens seeking to travel to countries other than the UK should check first with the embassy if they will be valid.
For example, the only Gulf country that accepts such documents is Oman, so Britons traveling to the UK must fly directly there, or via Muscat. They cannot travel on an indirect flight via Dubai, for example, the embassy spokesperson said.
The emergency documents do not permit a person to return to Qatar, so the citizen must apply for and receive a new passport before they fly back into Hamad International Airport.
Meanwhile, there have also been recent changes to the registration of births and deaths of British citizens living abroad.
Previously, these could be done at embassies. However under the new regulations, births and deaths should be registered in the UK.
Payment for the service can be done online, and the required documents, which can be downloaded, must be sent by courier to the UK for processing, which takes around five working days from receipt of the documents.
What is your experience renewing a passport as an expat? Thoughts?