Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Questions (51)

Clare Daly

Question:

51. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason the passport express facility, which states a guaranteed ten-day return, is not producing passports within that timeframe but actually taking considerably longer, causing huge distress and travel disruption; and the action he will take regarding same. [22326/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Over 93% of all passport applications within the State are made through Passport Express. This is a joint venture with An Post which enables applicants to lodge applications through some 1,000 post offices across the country and some 70 post offices in Northern Ireland.

The Passport Service endeavours to return a passport to all those who submitted properly completed applications through Passport Express within 10 working days. 82% of Passport Express Applications were processed within 10 days during 2013. However passport demand in Ireland is seasonal. Almost 50% of all passport applications are received in the four months April –July. Notwithstanding the best efforts to plan in advance for such seasonal pressures, spikes in demand can still occur. In particular this year two sharp peaks in demand as a result of naturalisation ceremonies occurred in January and March when approximately 8,000 new Irish citizens applied for their passports within a relatively short period of time. Moreover, on 7 May, the Passport Service received nearly 7,000 applications which is the single largest daily recorded intake of passport applications in the history of the state. Inevitably this has resulted in some delays in passport turnaround times. The Passport Service regrets the delay and any difficulties caused in this regard.

In an effort to improve the delivery of Passport Express and other services, the Passport Service has taken additional measures to deal with these short delays and the current increase in demand for the summer holiday season. These include:

(i) the recruitment and training of 160 temporary clerical officers; most taken from the live register.

(ii) technical changes to the passport system to heighten and increase the effectiveness of productivity through the separation renewal applications, which are generally straightforward, from the more complex applications for those applicants who are applying for the first time or who have lost or had their passports stolen; and

(iii) the use of overtime.

So far this year over 85% of applicants have received their passports in 12 working days or less. Currently the average processing times for renewal applications is less than ten working days with others such as first time applications averaging ten to eleven working days.