Delayed passport applications will be expedited if travellers are due to go abroad within two weeks.

But people are being urged not to book travel unless they have an up-to-date passport following delays in processing documents due to the Covid-19 crisis.

And those who do not need to renew are being encouraged to wait until after the busy summer peak.

Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) has issued more than 6,500 passports for those on compassionate and emergency grounds during the pandemic but more than 400,000 documents are still being processed due to fewer staff.

In an update issued on Friday, it said it “recognises that an increasing number of people who do not meet the urgent and compassionate criteria will want a passport more quickly as international travel restrictions continue to ease, particularly those with pre-existing bookings.

“Therefore, where a UK-based customer can evidence they are due to travel within the next fortnight, and where HMPO has had their application for longer than 4 weeks for renewal applications, it will expedite their application so that it is delivered within 5 working days.

“However, as HMPO always says, people should not book travel until they have received their passport and that advice still stands.

“HMPO is encouraging everyone who needs to apply to do so online as this does help speed up the process.

“It is vital that everyone applying thoroughly checks that they are sending in the right documentation, have filled in the form accurately, and ensure their photo meets the correct specifications, as this will also speed up the process.

“But what HMPO is also asking is that if people do not need to renew right now, then they should wait until after summer.

“This is always a busy time and with the added difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic, HMPO has had to scale back its operation. But it is working hard to get services fully resumed as soon as possible.”

The HMPO said security checks meant the process would take longer for people applying for a passport for the first time but staff were “working hard to ensure that anyone with pre-planned travel does not miss out if their passport application has been submitted correctly and in good time”.