Travellers have been urged not to delay in applying for a British passport and to allow more time for it to be processed.

During the pandemic, Her Majesty’s Passport Office saw a “significant drop” in the number of people applying for passports.

In a normal year, it processes about seven million applications but last year just over four million people applied for their passport.

It said in a statement: “While it is still illegal to holiday overseas and the ‘Stay in the UK’ regulation remains in place, by applying for a passport now, people can make sure nothing stands in their way when they can.

It added: “While all applications will be processed as quickly as possible, people should now allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their British passport to help manage this demand.”

Abi Tierney, director general of HM Passport Office, said: “It is vital those who may need to apply for a new passport do so now.

“If you have delayed renewing your passport or are applying for the first time, please apply now so you can receive it in good time.

“This new advice will help to ensure that we continue to meet the travel plans of our customers during any period of the very highest passport demand.”

The passport office will be sending text messages to people whose passports are nearing expiry to let them know to allow more time when they renew.

Non-essential international travel will not be allowed until May 17 at the earliest.

The statement said the ‘Stay in the UK’ regulation will be replaced by a traffic light system with red, amber and green ratings, adding: “It is too early to predict which countries will be on which list over the summer.

“Our decisions will be driven by the evidence available at the time, as such, we continue to advise people not to book summer holidays abroad.”