Passport demand outpacing issuance, Portugal opens biometric gates to UK travelers
As passports become increasingly sophisticated incorporating biometrics on chips with NFC, some good, old-fashioned delays are also developing in the UK and Canada with demand rocketing following the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile the war in Ukraine sees its passport’s recognition strengthen as the Russian credential drops to “junk status” following sanctions.
UK: applicants advised to allow 10 weeks, threat of privatization, Portugal opens the gates
British citizens are being urged to allow ten weeks for a passport application as demand reaches an all-time high. More than five million people delayed their applications during 2020 and 2021, according to HM Passport Office.
“Now that international travel has resumed, we know people will be looking at going away on holiday and yet many people are leaving applying for a passport too late,” comments the Director General of HM Passport Office, Abi Tierney.
The announcement has been followed by the threat of privatization of the Passport Office by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, reports the BBC. The outlet reports that the PM told ministers in a cabinet meeting that the high cost of services is affecting families ahead of summer holidays as many are forced to turn to the premium expedited services.
The BBC reports that Home Office Minister Kevin Foster told MPs that the service had processed one million applications in March, compared to seven million for the whole of 2021.
Those Brits who have passports and travel to Portugal should be able to use the biometric passport readers, rather than queue for manual checks and passport stamping as is required for third-country travelers to the EU, reports The Telegraph. Brits became third-country travelers after Brexit. It appears that British travelers will still need to have their passports stamped, although Portugal is planning changes such as 180-day visa-free travel for Brits, despite the 90-day EU limit.
This would make Portugal the first major EU country to break ranks by offering British travelers equal e-gate access to EU arrivals. Travelers from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan will also be able to use the e-gates.
The Telegraph suggests this is a shrewd move to attract British holidaymakers, Portugal’s single largest visitor group. The UK has left its own e-gates available to EU arrivals. Cyprus has a similar system of e-gates plus stamping and Ireland does not require stamps as it is in the Common Travel Area with the rest of the British Isles.
Canada: long waits for passports due to surge in applications
Demand for passports is 40 times higher in Canada than before the pandemic, reports CBC News. Lines at Service Canada offices are common around the country.
The agency is receiving more than 200,000 calls a day for passport requests, up from around 5,000 applications daily.
Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, Service Canada issued 363,000 passports. In the same period to 31 March 2022, the figure rose to 1,273,000.
India: e-passports to launch for the year 2022-23
The Indian government is planning to issue e-passports in the calendar year 2022, reports the Hindustan Times.
The credentials will have a data page and chip compliant with ICAO standards and the booklets will be manufactured at the India Security Press. Letter of intent to purchase 450,000 chips have been issued.
The passports, expected to have embedded RFID and biometrics, are being piloted ahead of rollout.
Passport Index: war in Ukraine sees changes to passport rankings
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen the value of the Russian passport reduced to “junk status” according to the Henley Passport Index.
While Russian Federation passports now rank equal with those of Micronesia, the Ukranian passport has climbed to 34th position, a record high.
Passport ranks are based on the number of countries a bearer can enter visa free. Countries have rapidly opened up to Ukrainian refugees while put travel bans on Russian citizens, blocked air space to Russian carriers and even suspended issuing visas.