• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 11:15pm
NewsHong Kong
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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
EXPAT GREG HUNT

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."

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This article is now closed to comments

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

Is that the same Consul General Caroline Wilson whose residence is in the most expensive residential building in Hong Kong? The 35 million pounds sterling (HKD 450m) flat in Opus? But well, I suppose that as a civil servant paid entirely by taxpayers' money, you do want to make sure you are comfortable while you lean back and call your own department's performance 'unacceptable.'

And this is about the British Passport, right? The passport for which citizens in Hong Kong pay a whopping 103 pounds sterling (HKD 1300) to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office just to renew it? But well, I suppose this money is badly needed to finance the extravagant residences of likes of Consul General Caroline Wilson around the world.

It is good to see that the F&CO has its priorities straight.
Kubrick
Britain, rapidly becoming a third world country. This is pathetic. You'd think that Hong Kong with its large expat population would merit a passport office. And why is the Consul-General living in such an expensive location? Surely some savings could be made there. In fact, what does the Consul-General do? In my over 30 years in Hong Kong the only role he appears to have is attending cocktail parties.
dynamco
the move was a cost saving measure for HM Govt so thy can afford the lady Consul's 900k a month mega luxury apartment rent here
shambles
total shambles
The Empire has crashed
kew202
It's good to know the money being saved improving the passport service is being well spent on Caroline Wilson's rent !
14u2nv
Took nearly 9 weeks for my daughters renewal. Utterly hopeless and typical British shambles since they closed passport issuing facilities here due to budget cutbacks.... but hey, as long as the British Consul-General is staying at THE MOST EXPENSIVE piece of real estate in Hong Kong then I guess it's all good (****www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1257385/british-envoys-pricey-home-goes-over-top?page=all).
Incompetence is especially galling when you consider that a 'Premium Service' application in the UK will have it delivered back to you within 1 week.... and the 'Fast Track' service will have it done for you in less than a day! (of course... you just need to pay up to the BROKE British government for the pleasure...)
captam
@"The British consulate in Admiralty is no longer processing passport applications."
So what are all the staff there engaged doing? Spying on China and helping USA's NSA suck up all our emails and phone calls?
If the Consulate is unwilling to provide normal consular services (including passport renewal) , which are provided by other HK consulates to their nationals, the British Consulate should be shut down and the consulate staff thrown out of Hong Kong.
ed_kwok
When I called the British Council to obtain information on this new procedure I had the phone slammed on me in mid sentence. Hello Caroline Wilson, do you feel good living in opulent luxury and wining and dining British rugby players while giving zero service to British citizens and being disgracefully rude about it as well?
patrick.gifford.180
Europe is going down , the new third world continent , soon Africa will be lending money to Europe .
Enjoy your last gin tonic before bankruptcy .
Kubrick
Yep, outsource it and then claim you can't help. Typically of what is happening with so much of the public services in Britain. That's why they have prisoners walking out of jails, deportees getting killed on repatriation, refugees sexual abused in detention centers and generally **** public services. At least in Hong Kong we've still got good quality public services. Count your blessings.
HK-Lover
The British government should admit to the blunder and mess and compensate all persons concerned with hefty discounts for the passports because they don't deliver the service they promised. Any emergency visa needed because of the delayed passports should be for free.
Tip for the frequent travellers who cannot afford to be without a passport for more than 2 weeks - apply for a 2nd passport which you use for travelling while the 1st passport is renewed.

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