Britons trying to squeeze in a summer holiday abroad may have their plans put on hold as a backlog of 400,000 passport applications builds up.
The forms are taking longer to process than usual because of reduced staffing to ensure social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sun-seekers may be keen to make the most of eased travel restrictions on popular destinations like Spain, France and Italy, as COVID-19 lockdowns in Europe are gradually lessened.
A minister said steps are being taken to increase staffing to meet demand.
Baroness Williams of Trafford revealed the scale of the passport backlog in a written answer to a parliamentary question.
She said the latest figures show that as of 7 July, 120,000 passport applications have begun being processed – 31% more than the same time last year.
But there are still 284,000 to go – a spike of 172% compared to last year, she cautioned.
Baroness Williams said the Passport Office “continues to operate at reduced staffing levels so its people can continue to socially distance” and it is “therefore taking longer than usual to process passport applications”.
“As part of its contingency arrangements, HM Passport Office is rapidly increasing its capacity for processing passport applications, in line with public health guidance, which will help to ensure it continues to meet the travel needs of its customers,” the peer added.
Guidance on the government website said: “It is taking longer than usual to process applications because of coronavirus.
“Do not apply unless you need a passport urgently for compassionate reasons.”
In-person interviews, usually needed for those trying to get their first adult passport, are also “temporarily unavailable”, the website adds.