A cruise ship singer has slammed the Home Office after she missed out on work because her renewed passport was not returned on time.
Louise George, of Baildon, was scheduled to board the Balmoral ship in Southampton last Saturday for the start of a four-month contract.
But the 29-year-old was left at home, unable to travel on the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines ship because she didn’t have a passport.
“I am losing money, I am losing employment,” said Miss George. “I am self-employed. It is one of those jobs where I could be replaced at the drop of a hat.”
Miss George said she sent off for her renewal at the earliest opportunity - the day after returning from another work assignment in Asia.
“I have no faith in the system,” she said. “I rely on my passport for work.”
She also said that her passport expiry date was not imminent, but because the cruise ship was calling in the USA she needed a minimum number of valid months on it.
“I sent off for the passport on May 7,” said Miss George. “It was a standard renewal that should take three weeks. I sent it via Post Office check and send – I paid extra so it would be a special delivery.”
She added: “I only have short gaps between trips. I had just been on a cruise in Asia. I got back on May 6 and sent off the application on May 7.”
Miss George received her passport on Monday evening and is now hoping to join the ship when it stops again in Southampton on June 14.
A spokesman for the passport office said: “We recommend customers should not make travel arrangements until they have received their passport.”
But a spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union – which has members working for the passport office – said there were lots of passport delays due to a shortage of staff.
He said: “There has been a particular spike in the run up to half-term week and years of successive job cuts have meant there are not enough staff to keep up with peaks and demands.”
The spokesman added: “They also had a new IT system installed that keeps falling over.”
Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said Miss George’s case was one of at least 20 he had taken on in the last month.
“I had a spate in early May,” said Mr Davies, who added that he had another four people come to him with passport problems on Monday.
He added: “If people are having problems they should contact me and I will absolutely try to help them out.”
Mr Davies said the passport office had been experiencing a “huge increase” in the number of applications, and added: “I urge people to apply in lots of time.”