Foreign Affairs | To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the processing of passport applications is being expedited to meet the demand
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the processing of passport applications is being expedited to meet the demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Bernard J. Durkan T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 10 May, 2022.
The Passport Service is proactively managing the current demand for passports and has put in place resources and structures to address the estimated significant increase in demand for passports in 2022 in this essential citizen service.
A Passport Service communications campaign was deployed at the start of the year with the objective of informing the public about the passport application process and to encourage citizens to go online for applications and renewals. This campaign ran over print, broadcast and digital mediums, as well as stadium, event and airport advertising. It included advertisements in national and local radio, as well as advertisements in national press, during a two week period in January. Further activity is planned for the second half of the year across digital, social media, print and radio.
Since late January, all Passport Service sites in Dublin and Cork have been operating at full capacity following the ending of many Covid-19 public health restrictions, and all services have fully resumed as they were in place before the pandemic. The Urgent Appointment Service is available for customers who wish to book a counter appointment and renew their passport at short notice. Customers availing of this service can renew their passport within 1 or 4 days in Dublin and within 4 days in Cork.
There are currently 183,000 applications in the Passport Service system. While there is a very high volume of applications, this does not represent a backlog. These applications are all being processed in the usual way, with a continuous stream of new applications and a continuous dispatch of completed passports happening every day.
Figures show that of the total number of applications in the system, 61% are fully complete and are being processed by the Passport Service. The other 39% of applications in the system are incomplete, which means the Passport Service is waiting for the applicant to submit the necessary documentation required. While the Passport Service makes every effort to contact applicants in such circumstances, their experience is that many applicants take weeks and sometimes months to send in the necessary documents.
The vast majority of applications are processed within the turnaround times outlined below:
– 10 working days for Simple Adult online renewals
– 15 working days for Complex or child online renewals
– 30 working days for First Time Applications on Passport Online (applications received from 19 April)
– 8 weeks for An Post’s mail-in “Passport Express” service
In addition, 45% of adult renewal online applications are issued within one to two working days of receipt.
The Passport Service has recently reduced the turnaround time for first time applications from 40 working days to 30 working days. This is a direct result of the staffing and resources the Department has invested in the Passport Service.
The Passport Service is currently experiencing high demand for first time passports, particularly for children. First time passport applications take longer to process than renewal applications and there are a number of reasons for this. First time applications are necessarily complex to process, since, in many cases, they are applications for Irish citizenship. The Passport Service must validate the identity of the applicant and take measures to confirm the applicant’s entitlement to Irish citizenship. It is the statutory responsibility of the Passport Service to protect the integrity of the Irish passport. Accordingly, a rigorous analysis process is in place to verify the identity and citizenship status of first time applicants.
In the case of first time passport applications for children, the consent of guardians must also be thoroughly validated.
The Passport Service is taking a number steps to deal with increased demand on its services:
– The Passport Service has a comprehensive plan to ensure that adequate staff, accommodation and technology supports are in place to meet expected demand for passports in 2022.
– A major recruitment drive has been underway over the past several months, which has seen the number of Passport Service staff increase by over 300 since June 2021.
– The Passport Service is currently running its own recruitment competition for Temporary Clerical Officers. This recruitment effort will bring staffing numbers to over 900, which represents a doubling of staff compared to June 2021.
– Intensive training of new staff and upskilling of existing staff is underway to increase the resources that can process complex applications, such as first time child applications.
– The Passport Service is prioritising first time applications and directing increased resources to processing these complex applications with a view to reducing the current turnaround time. Passport Service staff are working targeted overtime in this regard.
– In February, the Passport Service increased the number of appointments at its public offices by 100%, providing an extra 170 Urgent Appointments per week.
– A new document management system was put in place at the beginning of March. This aims to improve the processing speed in the Passport Service offices, and subsequent turnaround times for the applicant. One particular feature of the new system improves the processing time for applicants who have been asked to submit additional documents. Once the additional documents are received, they are being prioritised and complete applications can then be processed in 3 weeks. This significantly reduces the processing time, particularly for first time applicants.
– There is an updated Department of Foreign Affairs website, which includes a new passport service section where applicants can easily find out what additional documents are required for their type of application.
– The Passport Service is also working on public education materials, including video tutorials, with a view to assisting applicants to complete their application correctly. These videos will be shared on social media and will include instructions on submitting consent forms for child applications properly.
I am confident that the measures that have been implemented will help to reduce passport turnaround times in the course of 2022, particularly for first time applications, and will assist the Passport Service in meeting the high demand forecast for this year.
I strongly urge anyone who is considering travelling overseas this year, particularly families with young children, to check the validity of their passports before booking travel and to apply for their passports online in plenty of time.
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