The Passport Service is currently in its peak season for passport demand with the vast majority of applications being received between February and August each year. The number of applications received from January to May this year is up by over 5% on the same period last year. The Passport Service is currently processing over 80,000 passport applications. These applications are going through the normal checking, processing and security stages. The Passport Service is meeting its target turnaround times for certain categories of applicants, and I acknowledge that there are delays in other categories. For applicants that have used the Online Passport Application service, the target turnaround timeframe of 10 working days (plus postage) is being met and in 50% of cases, applications are being processed in 5 working days (plus postage). The target timeframe of 15 working days for Passport Express renewals is also currently being met. The Passport Service acknowledges that for certain categories such as first time applicants and applicants with lost or stolen passports, processing is taking longer due to additional security checks. The Passport Service monitors the volume of applications received on an ongoing basis to ensure that resources are available to meet demand. In order to respond to anticipated application increases and to seasonal demands, the Passport Service received sanction for 220 Temporary Clerical Officers (TCOs) this year to be appointed to the Passport Offices in Dublin and Cork. These TCOs are working together with permanent staff to process passport applications and to deal with the high number of enquiries being made through the Passport Service’s various customer service channels. In addition to the intake of TCOs, staff from other Divisions in the Department have been reassigned to assist with enquiries, and targeted overtime is available.
A central element of my Department’s approach to managing increasing application volumes has been the implementation of service improvements in order to minimise the impact unusually high application volumes have on turnaround times. The Passport Reform Programme is delivering major upgrades to the passport service technology platforms and business processes as well as significant customer service improvements. The online passport application service, which was launched last year, will continue to make a major contribution to the effective management of exceptionally high volumes by allowing existing resources to be more effectively deployed within the Passport Service. I would encourage all applicants wherever possible to renew their passports using the online renewal service; it is the quickest, easiest and most convenient way to renew your passport.