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Passport Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 24 May 2022

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Questions (283, 284, 294, 315)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

283. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff working in the Passport Office each month since January 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25871/22]

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Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

284. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if there are plans to increase resources in the Passport Office ahead of the summer holiday season; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25872/22]

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Mairéad Farrell

Question:

294. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department will recruit more staff to deal with the influx of passport applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26012/22]

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Thomas Gould

Question:

315. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of whole-time equivalent staff currently employed in the Passport Office by role in tabular form. [26302/22]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 283, 284, 294 and 315 together.

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.

The Passport Service has been scaling up resources to deal with anticipated demand since June of last year. A major recruitment drive, in partnership with the Public Appointments Service, has been underway over the past several months. This has seen the number of Passport Service staff increase by 344 since June 2021.

In addition, the Passport Service is currently running its own recruitment competition for Temporary Clerical Officers (TCOs). The interviews have concluded and TCOs recruited from this competition are being assigned on a weekly basis from Monday, 23 May. The first group of 20 new TCOs started work on Monday, 23 May. This recruitment effort will bring staffing numbers at the Passport Service to over 900 which represents double the number of staff with the Passport Service in June of last year.

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 continues to implement further measures 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.

- 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.

- The Urgent Appointment Service is available for customers who wish to renew their passport at short notice. Customers availing of this service can renew their passport within 1 or 4 days in Dublin, within 4 days in Cork and within 5 days in London.

- 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.

- Public information media campaigns reminding citizens to check and renew their passports will continue during this busy year.

- 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.

Since March of this year, the Passport Service has reduced the processing time for first-time applications from 40 working days to 30. This 25% reduction in processing times is a direct result of the substantial level of investment my Department has made in the service.

I am confident that the measures that have been implemented will help to further reduce passport turnaround times in the course of 2022 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.

The number of staff working in the Passport Office each month since January 2021 is outlined below in tabular form.

Passport Service staff numbers by month

 Staff Numbers by Month

2021

2022

January

477

726

February

470

730

March

468

726

April

466

705

May

465

725

June

463

 

July

463

 

August

482

 

September

502

 

October

519

 

November

569

 

December

617

 

The number of Passport staff by role are outlined below in tabular form. Of the total 725 staff, 636 are full-time staff and 89 are part-time.

Passport Service staff by role

Principal Officer

1

Counsellor            

1

Assistant Principal                

8

First Secretary

2

Third Secretary

3

Higher Executive Officer

23

Executive Officer   

78

Clerical Officer

356

Temporary Clerical Officer 

253

Question No. 284 answered with Question No. 283.
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