/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Passport prices cut – but are they cheap enough?

The cost of a new UK passport went down by £5 today, but there are many European countries that offer their passports cheaper. So do our passports actually represent good value for money?

It’s rare to see anything getting cheaper, particularly when everything else seems to be getting more expensive.

So it’s a refreshing change to see the price of a UK passport going down. From today, the price of a standard adult 10-year passport will fall from £77.50 to £72.50.

OK, so a £5 saving isn’t going to make a huge difference to my spending power over a decade. 50p extra a year isn’t going to change my holiday lifestyle one little bit, but I’d still rather passports cost £5 less than £5 more.

Cutting costs – not customer service

The Home Office says the price cut is the result of £40m savings at the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in the last financial year. Those savings involved closing 22 interview offices, cutting staff numbers by 9.1%, and closing one application processing centre.

The Home Office also claims that customer service standards will remain high regardless of the efficiency savings, and I hope they’re right. As despite the £5 cut in price, the cost of a UK passport is still higher than many European countries. Of the 20 countries we looked at, we found 12 other countries that charge less than the UK for a passport lasting 10 years.

The problem with passport prices

The cheapest we found was Spain at £21.50, while Austria, France, Germany, and Ireland also charged less than the UK. The Home Office argues that many European countries subsidise passport fees, or impose an extra charge for travelling outside the EU, and that the UK passport office provides a faster service.

It also cites countries outside the EU that charge more, including New Zealand at £161, Australia at £158 and Canada at £112.

Do you think the cost of a passport is justified? I haven’t had to renew my passport recently so I don’t have first hand experience, but how have you found it? Is renewing a passport a breeze or a bother?

Are UK passport prices too expensive?

Yes - it costs too much to buy a passport (82%, 235 Votes)

No - the cost of a passport is reasonable (18%, 50 Votes)

Total Voters: 292

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I’ve just had to renew my Australian passport for a whopping £158. Add to this that the passport hadn’t even expired – the pages were full but the Australian government refuses to allow extra pages to be added. £72.50 sounds enviably cheap!

I wonder whether that makes the Australian passport the most expensive in the world? According to https://www.passports.gov.au/Web/Queries/Fees.aspx a basic passport is AUD 233 (roughly the same as you paid), but a larger one with lots of extra pages is AUD 351. Wouldn’t it have made sense to get the bigger one this time?

It’s not just that passports are cheaper in other EU countries. Nationals of most EU and EEA countries don’t need passports at all for travelling within the EU and EEA (including to the UK). That’s because all EU and EEA countries, except the UK, Ireland and Denmark, issue national identity cards (either optionally or compulsorily) to their citizens which are valid travel documents like passports. These cards fit in a wallet or purse and so are less likely than a passport to be lost. The current UK government foolishly abolished the ID card scheme when it wisely abolished the flawed National Identity Register. Therefore British citizens remain disadvantaged compared to nationals of most other EU and EEA countries, as we legally have to carry bulky and expensive passports around with us at all times in some countries. It is absurd that we should have to carry all those pages around with us when those pages are only needed for non-EEA travel.

If we assume that there are twenty million [legitimate] UK passport holders and that the renewal rate is 10% a year that’s two million new issues a year plus perhaps100,000 first applications. Divide that into the £40m annual savings and we should be getting a bigger price drop than a fiver! Looks like another TV licence fee scandal!

I remember when you could get a short term passport over the counter at a local post office. A single passport was enough for more than one person (I can’t remember the details – I think it was children and possibly spouse).

I understand we can’t turn the clock back. But we’ve gone too far in accepting how much administration (expensive beaurocracy and poor experience at borders) dictate to operation (the joy of foreign travel).

Here are two brainstorm ideas:
* The private sector is deeply involved in the process of passport issuing. However, these are monopoly contracts that are lucrative for the business and expensive for the citizen. The government should licence more than one business to handle routine customer-facing work. They can compete on price, speed, and customer experience.
* Other countries provide two different document types: low-cost for EU-only; high-cost for worldwide. The UK has just one high-cost worldwide document. It may be that an EU-only travel document would be cheaper for UK citizens.

R Christie says:
25 October 2012

John Ward says 2 million passports (or so) per year. Does the administration and issue of passports really cost £145 million a year?

For that matter does the issue of an adult passport really cost 58% more than those for children (currently £46)? And if you want an extra four sheets of paper (16 pages) that is a further £13. It must be awfully expensive paper!

Which? has quite rightly questioned and investigated overcharging for “services” from banks, airlines and other businesses. This passport “scam” really does look like a none too subtle stealth tax too. So what is the real cost of the provision of passports?

Paul says:
11 June 2014

I’ve always understood that the fee for issuing passports goes towards the cost of maintaining the network of British embassies around the world, specifically the services that offer help to British tourists. There are more than 150 embassies, so that’s less than £1m each.

Roy Fox says:
31 October 2012

It is too dear, especially if the holder is over 70 and unlikely to live the ten years of the passport, or anyway is unlikely to travel abroad for that time.

Martyn Lewis says:
11 February 2013

My wife is spanish and her passport is only 25 euros, arrives a lot quicker than my british passport and is virtually identical. The British Passport system is absolute rip off. Infact any documents you request from the British Consulate is far more expensive than the Spanish system. In Spain they can use their ID card to request and authorise their documents by using a card reader, far more convenient and cheaper, but they dont want id cards in UK, so its going to be more of a long drawn out process.

Heather says:
28 May 2013

You think this is bad, from outside the UK they are charging 161.50 just to renew an existing one!! Ridiculous!!

Jean Walliker says:
8 November 2014

I have just turned 70 and re-married on my 70th birthday. My husband wants us to have a break over Christmas as we have not had a honeymoon or indeed, a holiday for over 7 years. As he has not been able to work for the past several years due to a major operation, two heart stoppages, Type 2 Diabetes and other continuing health problems, we have scrimped and scraped on my pension of just £154.82 per week to pay our bills, live and try to put away about £5 per week as savings; the exorbitant price of £72.50 each for passport renewals would mean we can renew our passports but then would not have enough for a short break abroad! Is there not a discount price for anyone over 70 years of age?

Paul Stevens says:
17 March 2015

To renew a British passport in Finland it costs 171.07euros plus photos. This in total will cost somewhere in the region 200e. This is totally disgraceful and utter robbery. It barrels me how this can be legal.Renewing a passport should be a my civil right and British people should Only be charged for basic administration charges.