'I'm waiting ...' Woman launches countdown website to track delays in British passport office

Hong Kong applicant launches website to track progress and highlight backlog

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 August, 2014, 8:54pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 August, 2014, 5:05pm

Lengthy delays to British passport renewals this year have not stopped Hong Kong-born Laura Ma Yanyi from applying - and embarking on a novel experiment that, if it backfires, could leave her unable to travel for quite some time.

Ma, 26, has set up the website to share her experience and track the amount of time it takes to receive her documents.

"The thinking behind the website is to boost awareness of the backlog," said Ma, who submitted her application on August 1, the start date for the website timer.

Ma holds three passports - she became a naturalised British citizen in 1988 and has lived in Canada - yet all are required by the UK as part of the renewal process. "It means I will have no travel documents whatsoever for as long as it takes for them to process everything," she said.

She is urging others who are waiting on the UK government's passport office to participate in the website.

"While the website will tell the story of one passport, everything that's shareable on the website, we will share.

"We've got options where you can track the actual passport application on the UK passport website and through the parcel delivery system."

Her Majesty's Passport Office (HMPO) is handling 343,890 domestic and overseas passport applications, according to the latest official figures.

The British government blames its backlog on a summer surge in applications for new passports.

Delays escalated after a switch from a locally based passport-issuing system at the British consulate to one based in Liverpool.

Union workers at HMPO went on strike last week to protest against years of staff and pay cuts, plus extra work in handling overseas passport applications.

Many Hong Kong-based British nationals and holders of British National (Overseas) passports have been hit by the backlog. The time to renew passports from Hong Kong was extended from four to six weeks to 12 to 16 weeks.

"It's definitely not convenient but if you need you renew it, you have to do it," said Ma.

Ma was born in Hong Kong in 1988, and at age four became a naturalised British citizen. She moved with her family to Canada aged seven.