Passports are an important indicator of national belonging for many people. They allow you to travel around the world, contain visas for staying in different countries, and serve as official proof of citizenship, political ties, and identity. British citizens and other categories of British individuals are issued British passports in line with their relevant British nationality status.
If you want to apply for a British passport application as a British citizen, you should leave plenty of time before travelling abroad. It is important to ensure that you follow all proper steps to apply for your British passport as it is an important legal document granted by the British Government. Even if you do not seek to travel soon, it is important to have a passport as an official form of identification and citizenship proof.
This article will outline the importance of British passports and how to apply for a first British passport or renew an existing passport. It will also identify the associated fees, processing timelines, supporting documents, and Frequently Asked Questions in relation to applying for a British passport.
Why is a British passport important?
British passports are issued by Her Majesty’s Passport Office and must be applied for directly to this office by British nationals. As of September 2020, all newly issued British passports are blue in colour and feature the coat of arms of the monarchy. They serve as official and unquestionable proof of right to live in the United Kingdom indefinitely with all the political privileges and responsibilities that this entails. British passports also allow travellers and individuals living outside the United Kingdom to access consular assistance from any British Embassy or Consulate around the world. As such, the British passport is a highly desirable and valuable document to possess.
According to the Passport Index 2022, the British passport is one of the strongest passports in the world. It allows visa-free travel to 102 countries, visa on arrival to 48 countries, Electronic Travel Authorisation travel to 7 countries, and only requires a visa for 41 countries around the world. This means that British nationals possessing British passports can visit the vast majority of the world with little need to deal with the bureaucracy of visa applications and inquisitive immigration officers.
Who can apply for a British passport?
The Government allows individuals who hold British nationality to apply for a British passport. You may have been born British in the United Kingdom or a British overseas territory such as Bermuda, Gibraltar, or the British Virgin Islands. Conversely, you may have been born in a British colony before 1983 or have been born outside the United Kingdom or a British overseas territory to British parents. If you are already British, you don’t need to apply for citizenship. You can simply apply for a first British passport via HM Passport Office.
Many individuals who are now British were not born British citizens. These people have acquired their British nationality as a child or adult through processes called naturalisation or registration of citizenship. There are many different routes to gain British citizenship after living in the country for a number of years, such as being married to a British citizen, working in the United Kingdom, or having previously held refugee status.
Overall, most British citizens should be eligible to apply for a British passport. Only in unique circumstances will British citizens be ineligible to apply for a British passport.
Who cannot apply for a British passport?
The Government considers the granting of British passports to be a privilege, not a right, as passports are considered legal property of the Government. You must follow the laws and regulations of the United Kingdom to be eligible for a British passport. Not all British individuals will be able to apply for a British passport. You may not be able to apply for a British passport if one or more of the following apply to you:
- You currently have a court order which prevents you from leaving the United Kingdom or from having a British passport
- You are currently suspected of a serious crime and an arrest warrant has been issued against you
- You have been released on bail and your bail conditions prevent you from leaving the United Kingdom
- You have been repatriated to the United Kingdom at the expense of the British Government and you have not repaid the amount owed
- You have received a United Nations order or a European Union order which restricts or prevents your travel
- For children: You have a court order that prevents you from the United Kingdom
What are the different types of British passport?
Many different categories of individuals may be eligible to apply for a British passport. Some of these British passports may look slightly different from one another, but they are all valid for international travel and identification purposes. You can apply for a British passport if you are a British citizen, a British overseas citizen, a British subject, a British national (overseas) from Hong Kong, a British protected person, or a British overseas territories citizen from any of the following locations:
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
- Saint Helena
- Ascension Island
- Tristan da Cunha
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Turks and Caicos Islands
How to apply for a British passport
To apply for a British passport, you will need to carefully follow a series of steps in order to ensure timely processing of your new passport and safe return of your identity documents. You should not book any travel arrangements until your British passport has been received, so you will need to apply for your new British passport with plenty of time before traveling abroad.
First, you will need to ensure that you meet all eligibility requirements for a British passport. You must be a British national able to prove that you hold British citizenship. You must also meet the character requirements, outlined above.
Second, you will need to collect all supporting documents required for your British passport application. The specific documents required will depend on your circumstances, but you will generally need to provide any and all previous passports, your birth certificate, one digital passport photo if you apply online, two printed passport photos if you apply via post, and the details of someone to confirm your identity.
To find someone to confirm your identity, also known as a countersignatory, you must choose an individual who meets the following criteria:
- They must be a British or Irish citizen who currently lives in the United Kingdom
- They must be a professional person, such as a doctor, accountant, or a solicitor, or be recognised as a ‘person of good standing in their community’, such as a local councilor or a social worker.
- They must not be related to you by marriage or birth
- They must not live at your current address
- They must not work at the Home Office or HM Passport Office
Please note that the rules for countersignatories do not apply if you submit your application online or from abroad. They are only applicable if you submit your application via paper forms.
If you are a naturalised or registered British citizen, you will also need to provide your certificate of naturalsation or registration of British citizenship. This is the document you would have received after being granted British citizenship. You may also require the birth certificates and marriage certificate(s) of your parents, if relevant.
Third, you will submit the application for your passport. If you are located in the United Kingdom, you can submit the application online or via a paper form.
If you apply online, you will fill out the online form found on the Gov.UK website. Once you have finished the form, you will need to pay the relevant application fee. After paying the application fee, you will need to have an individual confirm your identity. They will receive an email from HM Passport Office with all required information to confirm your identity via an online application. Once this is finished, you will receive an email explaining the supporting documents you need to send and how to send them.
If you apply via paper form, you will need to obtain the forms from the Post Office or the Passport Adviceline. Once you have received the forms, you should fill in sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 9 fully. You will then need to have an individual confirm your identity in section 10 of your form. They should also sign and date one of your printed passport photos. You must then pay for your passport application via one of the following methods:
- Post Office Check & Send Service – debit card, credit card, postal order, cash
- Post – debit card and credit card details filled in on page 26 of passport application forms, cheque, postal order
If you pay for your application in the post, you must fill in the form on page 26 of the passport application forms. You should not send physical cards in the post to HM Passport Office. Once you have chosen your payment method, you can post your application form, supporting documents, and printed passport photos in the pre-printed envelope that comes with the application form. Alternatively you can take these materials to any Post Office that has a Passport Check and Send service. Please note that HM Passport Office encourages applicants to submit their passport applications online as it is faster, easier, and cheaper than postal applications.
Finally, you may be asked to attend a credibility interview via online video interview. Once your passport is approved, it will arrive in the post via recorded delivery or with a courier. You will also receive your supporting documents in the post but these will be returned separately from your new passport for safety.
If your British passport application is refused, you should contact a solicitor who specialises in nationality law for bespoke advice on how to best proceed.
How much does a first British passport cost?
The price of a first British passport will depend on your age and the number of pages you require inside your document. Here are the costs for a first British passport in line with the various options available under standard processing:
First British Passports for Adults (over the age of 16)
|To apply online for a standard (34-pages) passport||£75.50|
|To apply online for a frequent traveller (50-pages) passport||£85.50|
|To apply online for a passport if you were born on or before 2 September 1929||Free|
|To apply via paper form for a standard (34-pages) passport||£85|
|To apply via paper form for a frequent traveller (50-pages) passport||£95|
|To apply via paper form for a passport if you were born on or before 2 September||Free|
First British Passports for Children (under the age of 16)
|To apply online for a standard (34-pages) passport||£49|
|To apply online for a frequent traveller (50-pages) passport||£59|
|To apply via paper form for a standard (34-pages) passport||£58.50|
|To apply via paper form for a frequent traveller (50-pages) passport||£68.50|
How long does it take to receive a decision on my British passport application?
The British Government advises that it could take up to 10-weeks for your passport application to be processed. As of March 2022, here are the statistics for various British passport application types submitted with standard online applications and processing:
Applications for Adults (over the age of 16)
|To renew a British passport||5 weeks|
|To replace a damaged British passport||5 weeks|
|To replace a lost or stolen British passport||5 weeks|
|o change details on your British passport||5 weeks|
|To apply for a first British passport||6 weeks|
Applications for Children (under the age of 16)
|To renew a British passport||5 weeks|
|To replace a damaged British passport||5 weeks|
|To replace a lost or stolen British passport||5 weeks|
|To change details on your first British passport||5 weeks|
|To apply for a first British passport||5 weeks|
The turnaround times for applications submitted outside the United Kingdom differ depending on the country and its methods of processing applications, so please consult the British Government website for up-to-date statistics. Turnaround times for applications submitted with expedited processing will also differ from the above statistics.
UK passport application FAQs
How much does a British passport cost?
Depending on your age and the number of pages of your desired passport, you will pay between £0 and £95 if you apply for a British passport within the United Kingdom. If you want to apply for a British passport outside the United Kingdom or need your passport processed urgently, you will need to pay more.
How quickly can you get a passport?
If you need your passport processed urgently, you can opt for expedited processing through a faster service. There are two types of urgent services which allow you to get your new British passport within 2-days to a week. These services incur additional fees. If you need a passport urgently for life or death situations, you can contact the British Government for assistance.
What are the documents required for a British passport application?
The documents required for your British passport application will depend on your specific circumstances, but generally, you will need to provide proof of British nationality, two passport-sized photographs, a birth certificate, and passports of any other country whose nationality you hold. All documents must be originals or official copies in England or Welsh.
Should I apply for a passport online or with a paper form?
Traditionally, paper forms were the way to apply for passports. However, HM Passport Office now highly recommends that people who are able should apply for a passport online. It is faster, cheaper, and safer to submit your passport application online. It also means that you do not need to have an individual certify your identity on a form and do not need to submit printed passport photographs to HM Passport Office.
How long are UK passport applications currently taking?
The Government advises that it could take up to 10-weeks for your passport application to be processed. As of March 2022, it is currently taking between 5 to 6 weeks to apply for a first passport or to renew a passport within the United Kingdom. The turnaround times for applications submitted outside the United Kingdom are different, so please consult the British Government website for up-to-date statistics.
How do I pay for my passport application?
You can pay for your passport application in a number of ways. If you submit your application online, you can pay online with a debit card or credit card. You can also pay by debit card, credit card, postal order, or cash at a Post Office Check & Send Service. Alternatively, you can post your debit or credit card details, a cheque, or a postal order if you submit the paper forms.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.