Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Ceisteanna (19, 23, 26, 31, 38)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

19. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when persons will be able to apply online again to renew adult and children’s passports respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9874/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

23. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if passport applications are now being processed; if passports are being issued to those needing to travel for work or study abroad in circumstances in which travel is permitted; if processing has not resumed, when the service will resume; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10114/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

26. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he expects a return of regular passport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10167/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Norma Foley

Ceist:

31. Deputy Norma Foley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans for the reopening of passport offices; and the status of passport applications that were finalised as per tracking advice and awaiting dispatch. [10280/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

38. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when passport applications received by the passport office prior to Covid-19 restrictions are due to be processed; when the passport office is due to reopen to the public under the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; the estimated date for the reopening of passport applications online; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10439/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 23, 26, 31 and 38 together.

Once the potential impact of Covid-19 became obvious, contingency planning commenced to minimise the impact of restrictions on the delivery of passport services. In particular, plans were put in place to ensure that we continued to provide an emergency service for the issuance of passports in cases of serious illness or death abroad. The Passport Service also assisted those whose applications were regarded as urgent. While staff were on site during the pandemic, carrying out this necessary work, they also produced approximately 6,000 additional passports. The additional passports were adult passport renewal applications received online which required minimum staff intervention.

Personnel from the Passport Office were also redeployed into other essential public service roles, such as Covid-19 contact tracing for the HSE and working with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to facilitate the processing of Covid-related benefits.

The Passport Office has now started a phased return to full operation. This planning is in line with the wider Government plan to reopen in phases. The Passport Service resumed processing of non-essential online applications this week (in Phase 2 of the Government roadmap). The Passport Service has a great deal of experience in dealing with peaks in demand, and we believe that we are well-placed to ensure the online service will be meeting its usual turnaround times of approximately two weeks by phase 3 in July.

The Passport Online service has won awards for its user-friendly process, including a NALA award for the use of plain English. If an applicant is not familiar with using a computer, a friend or relative with basic computer skills can help them to apply online – the process only takes ten minutes to complete. Passport Online can also facilitate social distancing, given that a renewal application for an adult does not require the signature of a witness.

Passport Online expanded in 2019 to include first time applicants, both children and adults, in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain and Europe. Irish citizens, including children, can also renew their passports online 24/7, from anywhere in the world.