Written answers

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Passport Services

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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187. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he expects the passport service to resume; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17901/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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In line with Government guidance that, at Level 5 of the National Framework on Living with COVID-19 only essential work should take place, the Passport Service continues to provide a high-quality essential service in line with Government measures to reduce social contact and combat the spread of COVID-19.

This essential service is available for those who are required to travel due to the death or serious illness of a family member or meet the criteria for a reasonable excuse for non-essential travel as defined in the recent amendment to the Health Act 1947, which came into effect on 1 February 2021. Supporting documentation will be required in such cases.

Applicants who require a passport for emergency purposes, or for non-essential travel with a reasonable excuse, should contact the Passport Service via our Customer Service Hub Webchat function on our website.

Irish citizens who are resident overseas should make contact through the local Irish Embassy or Consulate General.

While normal processing of passports has been paused, the staff of the Passport Service continue to produce emergency and urgent applications, to offer customer service through WebChat, to assist with consular assistance for Irish citizens overseas and temporary reassignment of staff to the Department of Health. The Passport Service has issued approximately 2,000 urgent applications, approximately 170 emergency applications and approximately 20,000 simple adult renewals since the beginning of the year. Our Webchat team have answered more 30,000 queries.

The Passport Service has continued to make excellent progress with the Passport Reform Programme. This will deliver a modern passport processing system to replace the current software designed nearly 20 years ago.

The Passport Service has a comprehensive plan in place to resume all services, in line with the National Framework for Living with COVID-19. When operations resume at Level 4, all applications received via Passport Online will be processed. The Passport Service is confident, taking into account measures to ensure a safe workplace, that any Passport Online backlog can be cleared in six to eight weeks.

The Passport Service plans to resume processing of routine paper based applications such as Passport Express, Northern Ireland Passport Express and applications for Foreign Birth Registrations at Level 3 of the framework.

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