Passport applications from all citizens across the island of Ireland or abroad are distributed for processing at the three Passport Office locations on the basis of the type of application rather than the place of residence of the applicant. More than 90% of all passport applications, including first-time applications, are now being made through Passport Online.
The passport service is committed to continuing to offer a range of application channels, including an off-line service for citizens who are not eligible or do not wish to use the Passport Online service. Passport Online is the priority channel for applications, as there are many efficiencies built into the system for both the applicant and the passport service. Passport Online consistently offers processing times up to four times faster than paper-based passport renewal applications. A paper-based, mail-in service is available to citizens at more than 1,000 post office locations across the island. The availability of both Passport Online and the postal application channel means that very few applicants are required to travel a significant distance in order to apply for passports. Passport service figures show that less than 1% of all applicants use the in-person urgent appointment service available at the Passport Office in Dublin and Cork. Given the high percentage of applicants using Passport Online, I am confident that the range of service options available meets the current needs of passport applicants. Furthermore, recent service improvements allow the passport service to provide this essential citizen service in an efficient and effective manner.
At the moment, the priority is the turnaround time and getting passports to people on time. I am not ruling out extending our footprint to other parts of the island of Ireland, either Northern Ireland, the west or the north west. I recognise that it is a long drive to from somewhere like Donegal or Sligo to either Dublin or Cork to get an urgent appointment. To be honest, we are trying to move the whole system online in order that no matter where people apply from, they can get an efficient service. That needs to be the focus for now.