• Thu
  • Oct 23, 2014
  • Updated: 5:35pm
NewsHong Kong

Travel warning for British expats living in Hong Kong over passport ‘mess’

Applications are taking as long as three months to process, due to London's new policy of issuing all travel documents from Liverpool

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 11:36am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 4:02pm

British passport holders in Hong Kong have been warned not to make any plans to leave if they are waiting for a replacement travel document.

British nationals and holders of British National (Overseas) passports find themselves in limbo after a switch from a locally based passport-issuing system to one based in Liverpool.

The service, for want of a better word, is a disgrace ... It’s affecting many

Consular officials have declined to say how many people have been affected, but the number is believed to be in the hundreds. According to the 2012 consular census, there were 250,000 full British nationals and 3.4 million British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong.

A spokeswoman for the government in London said: "It is to do with transferring from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's regional passport processing centres to Her Majesty's Passport Office."

The delays extend to all types of British passport holders renewing internationally.

Some expatriates in the city have already had to wait up to three months for a new passport.

Events organiser Greg Hunt, who applied for a new passport on March 17 and is still waiting, said the situation was a "mess", and he had made a complaint to the British government.

"They can't even tell me where along the process my passport is. The service, for want of a better word, is a disgrace and it's affecting many, many people," Hunt said.

The consulate originally promised the "cost-cutting" closure of its passport centre would not affect processing times.

Renewals previously took up to four weeks. However, consular officials have warned that renewals would now take at least six weeks and first-time applications could take eight weeks or longer.

"If you are planning any overseas travel in the coming weeks and months, please do not leave it until the last minute," acting consul general Karen Bell warned this month.

Last night, Consul General Caroline Wilson branded the delays "unacceptable".

A British government spokesman said security checks were "significantly longer" for overseas applications.

"We recommend customers should not book travel until they have received their passport," the spokesman added.

Some expatriates who need new passports within four weeks are being forced to buy an emergency passport, which costs HK$1,200 and allows only a single trip. Normal application fees for a 10-year passport are HK$1,340 for a 32-page passport and HK$1,450 for 48 pages.

Katherine Horgan, an exchange student on an education visa expiring on Monday, was told to wait three to six weeks, and now has no choice but to apply for an emergency passport.

"I sent my application on time, they gave me a time frame, and I worked to it. I booked flights - non-refundable - for [Sunday], and my visa runs out [on Monday]," she said. "They are forcing me into a position where I will be staying in Hong Kong illegally against my will."


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

I apply to renew my British passport in Nov 2013 .Did all the paper work and sent it to UK .Paid ,So on the 12 /12/2013 got my new passport delivered by DHL to my workplace .Inquired from the DHL that I just got my new one but where is my old one .Answer was ,,You will have it
sent later.Went back to UK for christmas and new year .Came Feb and March 2014.Still no old passport .E-mail the passport office and after many inquires .The answer was .The UK office have sent it .I paid them over a thousand HK dollars and my passport have been lost .I call so many offices in HK and UK but nothing .Sent but lost by DHL company .This is large company and how can this happen .If now I want to go to India I cannot apply for a 5 year visa .WHY? I have no prove to show that I have ever enter that country .HELP ....me .....
And this is a problem? In Canada it takes three months to get a piece of plastic called a Permanent Resident card renewed.
I sent off my Passport for renewal on the 20th of March. It arrived in HK on the 27th of May. Unfortunately they have not sent back my working Visa so i'm still chasing on that, but reading this I suppose I am one of the lucky ones. I presumed that the UKPA would be terrible so luckily did not book any travel until i received my replacement.
Same sort of time frame.... Sent in on March 10 received passport back on May 12. Very frustrating. Good luck on your working Visa
We live in Korea and have just had our first sone. It has been 8 weeks since the passport agency recieved my son's documents and almost 9 weeks since the online application and payment was completed and still no sign of passport. Checked online and it just says the same as it has for the past 8 weeks "decloration recieved, being processed" emailed them they sent a reply saying the exact samething, so I called then, now I have to say the woman was very polite and friendly, but she said the exact same thing. What a shower of wasters. If it's not here by Monday then we could be facing 80 USD fines per day from Korean Immigration and my son is without health care insurance until his passport is issued and he can be registered with immigration. The UK is a shower of useless pr**ks to be honest. If a country the size of and as paranoid as the USA can issue a passport in less than 2 weeks why the hell can't the UK? I will have to call the UK Embassy Seoul today and see where we stand and see if the Korean Immigration Service is understanding too.
And if you have dual citizenship / passport from another country, they ask you to send the other passport in along with your British passport getting renewed. Just so that they can f**k up up even more if you did have an option to escape their incompetence.
I just went through this and received my passport about 2 weeks ago. I then had to wait another week and a half for my old passport to be sent back too.
What I couldn't get my head around was the foul attitudes of the people working at the passport office. I was repeatedly told that the website says AT LEAST 6 weeks. Like it was my fault that they were taking 8 weeks. When I asked about compensation since the fees changed since I had applied and had become cheaper, she became very annoyed and again repeated that it takes AT LEAST 6 weeks.
Very disappointed.
I had this problem when they first changed over and was advised apply for a second passport - i had 2 pages left on my old one which just lasted until i got the new one. Then i waited a year and applied for another new one to replace the full one - so now i have a years gap between the two passports.
You cant get two APEC cards - but at least i am no longer at the whim of civil servants on passport renewal - unless of course it starts to take more than 1 year to process!!!
I mailed my passport out on Mar 27th and it was stuck in UK customs for 3 weeks! They then finally received it on April 16th and its still in the freaking queue.
Sending them emails is pointless cause they reply back in a weeks time with very vague responses. After 4-5 emails back and forth they are finally able to locate the application and all they say is you shouldn't have made travel plans until receiving your passport.
I have my sister's wedding in Bali in a couple of weeks and I still don't have a passport. I can probably get en emergency passport but then I have to go and apply for an Indonesian visa as well since visa on arrival is not given to emergency passport holders.
I then had few business trips planned but I am not even sure if I can keep applying for emergency passports until my passport arrives. Either way its a big pain in the **** and I've never seen a passport office managed so poorly before.
I can't even track my passport online cause I've been locked out of the system for entering the incorrect password 3 times and there is absolutely no way of resetting it.
Anyway I'm done ranting, god bless the Queen and her useless civil servants.

They should at least drastically reduce the cost (to free) for the emergency passport for those affected. Unfortunately that won't help Brits who live here and need their passport for business trips etc.
Obscene British bureaucracy and incompetence . It just confirms why I became HK permanent resident. HK Immigration would have the issue sorted in a couple of days.
Personally I would have happily paid double to maintain the service in HK rather than rely on some half wit jobs worth in UK office




SCMP.com Account