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The cost of a British passport is set to rise next month – and travellers using the Post Office for their application are among the hardest hit.
Those applying by post and who do not have access to the internet will see far larger rises than those who do it online.
The cost of a passport will increase from £72.50 to £85 for postal applications from 27 March. This is despite one in 10 households not being connected to the internet.
Furthermore, purchasing the document at the Post Office using its check and send service will cost £94.75, This is Money can exclusively reveal, compared to the £82.25 it costs at the moment.
The increase marks a rise of 15 per cent – considerable above the current three per cent rate of inflation.
Passport changes: Next month, the cost is set to rise. If your passport is set to expire in 2018, it could be worth renewing it now to beat the hike
Applying for a passport at the Post Office counter is an option many take, as it helps eliminate potential errors.
However, it will be nearly £20 more expensive to apply for a passport using this method compared to doing it online as it is treated as a postal application.
The Post Office adds £9.75 to the passport fee and it is sent using Special Delivery. This is not changing – but the added postal cost brings the total cost to £94.75.
This is Money can also reveal the Post Office will be launching a digital process in branch later in the year where it will be offering the service at the lower fee.
A Post Office spokesman said: 'Her Majesty's Passport Office has done a review of their passport fees, and has confirmed that these will increase on 27 March this year.
'The new fee increase will reflect the lower processing costs for digital applications.
'This will not impact the price of the check and send service provided by the Post Office.
'In addition, the Post Office will also be able to charge the lower digital fee for our own digital passport transaction, which is due to launch later this year.'
Those who apply for a new passport online will see the cost go up by a smaller £3 to £75.50 – or 4.1 per cent, as processing them via this method is less costly for the Home Office.
But despite the rise, the cost of an online passport was a higher £77.50 between 2009 and 2012.
Those who have nine months left on their old passport can benefit from renewing it ahead of these changes.
Travellers can renew their passport at any time – and any remaining time up to a maximum of nine months on a current passport is transferred to the new document.
This means that if a passport is due to expire before 27 December it can be renewed in the next few weeks to beat the price hike and not lose any time on the document.
A passport will last 10 years and nine months if it is set to expire in December 2018 and it is renewed before the expected changes.
However, travellers with imminent travel plans should note that a new passport can take up to three weeks to arrive.
Alternatively, those who do not need to renew a passport within the next few months and use the Post Office check and send service could see the cost fall, if they are able to use the new online service launched later this year.
The HM Passport Office has said it plans to bring in 200 extra staff to cope with extra demand in the run-up to the price increase.
A spokesman for travel trade organisation Abta said: 'The online application process for renewing a passport is relatively straightforward, but there will be some customers who either do not have access to the internet or who may be uncomfortable with the process.'
Postal applications for a child's passport will also increase by £12 in March to £58.50 whereas the fee for online applications will only rise £3 to £49.
Those who need a last minute passport in an emergency are sit to be stung the most.
The premium same day application process cost will surge from £128 to £177 – a hike of 38.2 per cent.
Frequent travellers who apply online will not be affected by this new proposal, as the price for a jumbo passport with 16 extra pages is planned to remain at £85.50.
However, it may be wise to apply for a jumbo passport online, since those who choose to apply by post will be charged an extra £9.50, with the price increasing from £85.50 to £95.
Post Office: Many use the over the counter service to apply or renew their passport
The cost of obtaining a passport increased greatly between 1992 and 2009. In November 1992, the standard cost of a passport was £18. In March 1998, it would have cost you just £21.
There were then eight hikes in the price of passports to reach £77.50 in 2009, before arriving at the current cost of £72.50 in 2012.
Reasons for the hikes have included the funding of a major overhaul of the Passport Agency, to pay for anti-fraud measures and interviews for first-time applicants.
The cost of £85 for postal applications from March represents an increase of 304 per cent in 20 years – and a smaller 259.2 per cent rise for those applying online.
HM Passport Office says that the cost is broken down to three factors, the majority being the costs incurred in administering applications.
Blue passport: The colour is set to change next year
The other two are costs involved are providing consular assistance to British citizens overseas and providing assistance in the event of unexpected emergencies.
Fees are reviewed annually.
It says it is never intended that passport services should make a profit or a loss, although, in reality, costs and passport demand can deviate from plans, which can lead to surpluses or deficits arising.
A breakdown of costs from 2011 (which are likely to have changed slightly since) show the following costs:
Application Processing: £31.60
FCO Consular Premium: £15.62
Production & Personalisation of Book: £10.79
Unfortunately, there is no way around this cost, you need it to travel – unless you were born on or before 2 September 1929. In which case, your passport is free of charge.
The colour of the passport will also be changing in 2019, which will be delivered at no additional cost, HM Passport Office says.
Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.
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