13th January 2014
Changes to the way you apply for a British passport in Australia
There are an estimated 1.1 million Brits in Australia. Every year around 60,000 of them renew their passports. The way that the application process works changed this week. It’s part of a wider transfer of responsibility for issuing passports overseas from the Foreign Office to HM Passport Office – an Agency of the Home Office – in the UK.
Until last week, to renew or obtain a new British passport from Australia, applicants had to go into a branch of Australia Post and complete the application form which was then sent off, with relevant documentation and photographs, to the Regional Passport Processing Centre in Wellington, New Zealand.
Two main changes were introduced here on 13 January. First, the application now has to be completed and paid for on-line. Second, the supporting documentation now needs to be sent to the Application Processing Centre in Liverpool, UK. This can be done via Australia Post, or any other courier service. HM Passport Office have told us that the standard passport processing times will remain the same – allow four weeks for renewals, six for new passports or replacements for lost and stolen ones. So apart from the practical changes in the application process, there should not be much impact on applicants.
I suspect the two main questions we will get are:
What if I don’t have internet access? I know this is a concern for some, particularly elderly people. But this is the way most governments are delivering services nowadays. It’s consistent with the British Government’s ‘Digital by Default’ programme to provide government services online wherever possible. And most people can call on someone who can help them. When my parents, who live in the UK, renewed their passports a couple of years ago, I was able to do most of the process for them online from Australia and it worked very well. There is a passport advice line – 0011 44 (0)300 222 0000 – which is open from 0800-2000 UK time on weekdays and 0930-1730 on weekends and public holidays (so most readily accessible during the Australian evening) and charged at normal Australia to UK rates.
What if I need to travel whilst my passport is away being processed? In certain circumstances our Consulates around Australia can issue an Emergency Travel Document valid for a single journey, though not all countries accept these. It’s advisable to plan ahead and apply for a passport in plenty of time before travel. Those who travel very regularly, and would have difficulty managing without a passport, are able to apply for a jumbo (48-page) passport or a second passport.
My consular team is busy publicising these changes through the media, UK-linked organisations and via our digital platforms. In future they will no longer be able to handle passport enquiries, since these now fall to HM Passport Office, so all enquiries other than emergencies will be directed to the website and helpline.
Editor’s note: We are unable to respond to passport enquiries in the comments section of our blogs. A comprehensive step-by-step guide to renewing a passport from overseas is available at: https://www.gov.uk/overseas-