Wednesday, 3 November 2021
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
101. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the current processing time for first-time passport applications for children in cases in which an application is taking significantly longer than the estimated processing time; the efforts that are being taken to reduce these lengthy delays; the number of such applications waiting longer than the estimated processing time; the overall number of passport applications waiting to be processed by the passport office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53446/21]
The current processing time for first time passport applications is 40 working days for Passport Online and 8 weeks for applications submitted through An Post's "Passport Express" service.
The Passport Service is currently experiencing a high demand for first time passports. There are currently 67,000 first time applications on hand with the Passport Service. Almost half of online first time applications require the applicant or their guardian to submit the documents necessary to complete the passport application. These cannot be processed by the Passport Service until all relevant documents have been submitted and the application is fully complete. The Passport Service engages with all applicants who have not submitted the required documentation to ensure that their application is completed correctly and can proceed through the processing system. Unfortunately, 5,000 (7%) of first time applications are past the estimated issue date advised on our website. The Passport Service prioritises these applications and is working very hard to eliminate this problem.
Over half a million passports and cards have been issued to date in 2021. Almost 45% of passports for simple online adult renewals issue within one business day. There are currently 135,000 passport applications on hand at the Passport Service. Of these, over 50,000 online applications are pending submission by the applicant of a range of outstanding documentation.
To protect the integrity of the Irish Passport, first time applications require careful processing in order to validate the identity of the applicant and their entitlement to Irish citizenship for the first time. Additionally, in the case of children, consent of guardians must be validated. Accordingly, the current processing time for first-time online applications is longer than for that of a passport renewal application.
The Passport Service continually examines how to improve processing times, including examining the processes around the verification and processing of the supporting documentation for first time applicants. The Passport Service is also working closely with the Department’s Human Resources Division and with the Public Appointments Service on an ongoing basis to recruit additional staff to meet the current and forecasted demand for passports, including first time applications.
The Passport Online service is the most efficient channel for passport applications and is available to first time applicants, both children and adults, in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. I urge citizens and parents applying for first time passports for themselves or their minor children to ensure that they apply in plenty of time in order to have their passport in hand well in advance of their travel date.
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 for the Passport Service in response to the increasing demand for passports at home and abroad.