Belfast travel agent issues passport warning ahead of summer vacation

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A Belfast travel agent has given advice to holidaymakers regarding passports.

Hays Travel in Victoria Square has urged those hoping to fly this summer to check if their passports are up to date now.

In a social media post regarding Irish passports, they said: “The Irish Passport Office is currently experiencing a record number of applications.

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“For the first three months of 2022, more than 350,000 applications have been submitted. Processing times will be impacted…

“Official advice is don’t book a holiday until you have a passport in hand – there’s no guarantee of delays with the backlog! And, check that your passport is up to date at least six months before your departure.

“For simple renewals (no name change, etc.), the easiest and fastest way is to apply online:
https://www.dfa.ie/passportonline/

“Renewals for children can still be done online, but you will need to print the form and have it countersigned. This will slow down the application process.”

Manager Jackie Geddis told Belfast Live: “The Irish passport basically…they are normally very good, especially if you do a renewal and do it online.

“Their turnaround time is usually great. I’ve had people get their passports back in five days because it had just been renewed, but the problem per minute is over 350,000 people applied in three month.”

As well as those asking for passports to go on holiday after the lockdowns, Jackie added: “I also think there’s a bit of a backstage because of Brexit. People who would not usually have an Irish passport are now applying.

“I think some people, especially if they already have an Irish passport, think ‘Oh it’s okay, we’re not going in August, we just have to renew it’, and now, because of the number of applications , people should do as soon as possible and not sit down.

“Their turnaround times are much longer than they normally are.

“Next tip is that online renewals are definitely the way to go. It’s so easy and the fastest way to get your passport back. I would get them now.”

The travel expert also urges UK passport holders to check its validity before you travel.

Hays says any extra months accrued if you applied for a passport early are no longer accepted.

Your passport is only valid for ten years from the date of issue.

They tell anyone who has booked a trip to Europe, you need to check that you have sufficient validity from the return date.

This is usually three to six months depending on your destination.

Jackie explained: “Some people have a UK passport and when they look at their expiry date, it’s been over ten years.

“There is an online verifier, anyone with a UK passport – it is only valid for ten years from the date it was issued.

“Some people, for example, are in possession of a [British] passport that was issued on January 1, 2000, but whose expiry date may be May 31, 2010… In reality, their passport would have expired on January 1, 2010.

“They also need to be valid for a full six months (for most countries). If someone didn’t know, they might miss a holiday.”

Hays also added that they had had to turn away some customers who wanted to book without their passports ready.

The manager said: “We’ve had people ring up and see an amazing offer, and once we’ve checked all the requirements, ie passport status, we have to say we don’t are not comfortable accepting the reservation as there is a risk that they would not have their passport in time.

“We’ve had people say ‘Go ahead and book’ and you have to be realistic.

“We had to postpone someone’s booking because they are not in a situation where they have a valid passport. The customer would lose all their money.

“Once you’re in a time frame, some tour operations won’t allow you to change dates.”

Jackie also urges travelers to make sure they have insurance before they go – and check with their provider what is covered.

She said: “Once you are within three weeks of departure, the cancellation fee is full with the tour operator.

“Covid is a big thing…our insurance covers it, some do and some don’t, but ours luckily does.

“You need to call your insurance company and check that you are covered for Covid.”

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