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Foreign Affairs | Extent to which the processing of passports has been upgraded to meet the requirements of applicants

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the processing of passports has been upgraded to meet the requirements of applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The Passport Service continues to outperform its previous busiest year, 2019, by over 20%. Over 623,000 passports have been issued to date in 2022. This is 105,000 more passports than were issued at this point of the year in 2019.

The Passport Service is continually working to deliver enhanced customer experience and service delivery to our citizens. This year the Passport Service is experiencing an unprecedented volume of demand for passports. This is as a direct result of pent-up demand for travel after two years of pandemic-related restrictions.

This level of demand is not unique to Ireland. In countries such as the UK and United States, the turnaround time for all types of passports can be up to 10 weeks. The Passport Service has managed to decrease the processing times for first time online applications by 40% since March. Processing time for first time applications now takes 25 working days, down from 40 working days in March. In addition, almost half of adult online renewals are processed within 2 days. Our Passport Service is performing at its highest capacity ever and is producing an average of 6,000 passports per day. The current processing times are:

  • Online adult renewal – 10 working days
  • Online child/complex renewal – 15 working days
  • Online first time application – 25 working days (from 6 June)
  • An Post Passport Service – 8 weeks


In order to achieve these type of results and to continue to improve the service, my Department has made a huge investment in the Passport Service. In terms of staffing, over 400 staff have been assigned to the Passport Service since June of last year, including 120 in recent weeks. The addition of these staff has allowed the Passport Service to maintain its current turnaround times in the face of enormous levels of demand.

In addition to significantly more staff being assigned, the Passport Service has made important improvements that will help to ensure that passport applications can be processed without delay:

1. A large number of the new staff are being assigned to the Customer Service Hub. This will greatly increase the number of calls and webchats being answered and will assist with customers getting access to the information they need.
2. In addition to this, the Passport Service released two online video guides that provide tips to ensure that passport photos and witnessed consent forms for children are correctly submitted. Passport photos and witnessed consent forms are some of the main reasons that an application may be rejected, so it is important the customers have all the information they need to ensure that these are submitted correctly. These easy-to-follow video guides are available on my Department’s website and social media channels and I encourage all applicants to watch them before they submit their application.
3. My Department is currently running a national radio and print public information campaign reminding our citizens to check their passports and to apply online. This campaign also offers tips for ensuring your application is correct and complete. This is running in 10 national newspapers and on national and local radio in Ireland, as well as in Northern Ireland. In addition to this, national radio interviews have been undertaken by Passport Service management. These interviews have helped to inform the public of the length of time it takes to apply for a passport and to promote Passport Online which is the quickest and easiest way to apply for a passport.
4. Over the past number of weeks the Passport Service has worked with An Garda Síochána to develop a system for verifying Garda witnesses on passport applications in cases where the Garda signature cannot be verified. This new system assists in reducing the number of applications that are delayed due to a failure to verify witness details.
5. Intensive training of new staff and upskilling of existing staff has been underway for several months to increase the resources that can process complex applications, such as first time child applications.


The Passport Service uses modeling software to monitor and predict levels of demand based on demand in previous years and taking into account renewal dates of passports already in circulation, as well as consumer demand for travel. We are currently seeing high volumes of applications due to pent-up demand following pandemic-related travel restrictions. Turnaround times are based on predicted levels of demand as well as resources available. The Passport Service uses workforce planning software to assign staff resources to the areas of highest demand. This is continuously monitored by Passport Service management.

There are a number of steps that passport applications must go through before being dispatched to the applicant:

1. Registration of the passport application either online or through An Post Passport.
2. Submission of the required supporting documents to the Passport Service (if applicable).
3. Passport Service registers the documents and verifies their validity.
4. The application is processed by an entitlement checker who confirms the applicant’s identity and that they are entitled to Irish citizenship. In cases of children, the checker verifies the consent of the child’s guardians with the witness.
5. Application is approved or the applicant is contacted if additional supporting documents are required.
6. Once approved, the passport is printed and dispatched to the applicant.


All passport staff involved in checking and approving passports have their work spot-checked and audited.

Many parts of the process are fully automated and there are a number of systems in place to ensure the integrity and security of the process. The Irish passport is rated 5th in the world in terms of security and offers our citizens visa-free access to 187 countries.

If an applicant requires a resubmission link for a new consent form, the process can take up to 5 days due to the volume of resubmission links that are being requested. Resubmission links are valid for 5 days. Additional staffing recently assigned to the Passport Service will help to reduce the number of days it takes for this process.

With regard to checking of applications as soon as they are received, this is simply a question of the volume of applications currently being submitted. When applications are received, they enter a queue and are checked in order of the date they are received. If they are fully correct and complete they will be printed and dispatched to the customer as soon as they are checked. If there is an issue with the application, the Passport Service will alert the customer and any additional documents are processed in three weeks or less once received back from the customer.

The Urgent Appointment service continues to operate successfully in both Cork and Dublin. Additional staff have been added to the public-facing areas to deal with high demand for this service during the summer months. Appointments are currently scheduled to be 20 minutes long and can only be processed using a paper application which does not have in built efficiencies of the online system. Currently only one applicant can be processed in one appointment. The Passport Service will continue to examine ways to improve this service for customers.

Passport Online is continuing to expand and is now available to 97% of our citizens around the world. Most recently, Passport Online has been rolled out to first time applicants in the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar. The availability of Passport Online worldwide will continue to enhance customer experience and will mean even more efficiencies for the Passport Service.

I encourage all citizens to check their passports before booking any travel and to apply online and on time.

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Foreign Affairs

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