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Passport Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 19 January 2022

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Ceisteanna (649)

Danny Healy-Rae

Ceist:

649. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures that are being taken to increase the volume of staff in the passport offices to deal with processing passport applications in particular for first time children applications which are taking up to 12 weeks to process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1263/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Passport Service operations have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as were many Government services. The Passport Service maintained operations throughout the pandemic, notwithstanding the fact that the processing of passports requires physical attendance on site to deliver this service.

Despite the disruptions related to the pandemic throughout last year, the Passport Service issued over 634,000 passports in 2021 and 45% of simple adult renewals issued within one business day. 

My Department has been actively working with the Public Appointments Service to recruit additional permanent and temporary staff for assignment to the Passport Service. This recruitment drive has been underway since the last quarter of 2021 and will double the number of staff in the Passport Service from June 2021 levels. Over 180 additional staff are being assigned to the Passport Service in January alone and further staff will be assigned in February.  I am confident that the additional staff currently being assigned to the Passport Service will help to reduce turnaround times and to respond to the current and anticipated high demand for passports in 2022.

The current passport processing times are:

-      10 working days for Simple Adult online renewals

-      15 working days for Complex or child online renewals

-      40 working days for First Time Applications on Passport Online

-      8 weeks for An Post’s mail-in “Passport Express” service

The aforementioned passport processing times are based on current average application turnaround times and relate to passport applications submitted to the Passport Service with required supporting documentation. When passport applicants do not provide all of the requisite documentation to the Passport Service, it takes much longer to process the application and issue a passport. Passport Service figures show that 45% of current applications are incomplete and the onus is on the applicant to submit the required documents to the Service. While the Passport Service makes every effort to contact applicants in such circumstances, their experience is that many applicants take weeks and sometimes months to send in the necessary documents. 

The Passport Service continues to experience high demand for first time passports. These first time applications are necessarily complex to process, since they are essentially applications for Irish citizenship. The Passport Service must validate the true identity of the applicant and take measures to confirm the applicant’s entitlement to Irish citizenship. It is the statutory responsibility of the Passport Service to protect the integrity of the Irish passport. Accordingly, a rigorous analysis process is in place to verify the identity and citizenship status of applicants. 

In the case of first time passport applications for children, the consent of guardians must also be thoroughly validated. Due to the intensive analysis underpinning first time online passport applications, the processing time is 40 working days.

There are currently 29,000 first time child applications on hand with the Passport Service. Of these, almost 12,000 or 40% are incomplete applications that require additional documentation from the applicants’ guardians in order to complete the application and ensure that the child’s passport can be issued.

The Passport Service continually examines how to improve processing times and engagement with applicants. Preparation is currently underway for several system and service improvements that will enhance the customer service experience and will improve processing times.

In the context of the National Development Plan, my Department is making a major investment in the future of the Passport Service.  Over the next couple of years, we will replace the core technology underpinning the service, which will deliver efficiencies and a more resilient passport system.  

Budget 2022 also included an investment of an additional €10m in passport services in response to the increasing demand for passports both at home and abroad.

Question No. 650 answered with Question No. 641.
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