Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
201. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when a passport renewal for a person (details supplied) will be completed considering that the passport is required for work-related travel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23979/22]
213. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when a passport for a child (details supplied) will be dispatched considering that it was received by the Passport Office on 16 March 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24050/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 to 201, inclusive, and 213 together.
With regard to the specific applications about which the Deputies have enquired, the Passport Service has provided an update on the status of the passport applications to the applicants.
203. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a passport will issue on time for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in order to allow them to travel in view of the fact that this application is with the passport office since 10 March 2022. [23994/22]
204. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when a passport will be dispatched to a minor (details supplied) considering that the application was lodged on 27 February 2022 and this family have imminent travel plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24001/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 to 207, inclusive, together.
With regard to the specific applications about which the Deputies have enquired, the Passport Service has issued passports to the applicants.
208. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the policy of his Department in relation to Garda stations that are not contactable by phone in relation to witness signatures for passports; if his attention has been drawn to this issue; his views on whether training is needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24022/22]
There are certain passport applications for applicants resident in Ireland that require forms to be witnessed by a member of An Garda Síochána. These applications include:
- All Passport Express applications - Section 9 Certificate of Identity
- First time adult online applications - Identity Verification Form
- First time child online applications - Child Passport Identity and Consent Form (Guardian A)
The witnessing of these forms is a vital element of the identity verification process for the Passport Service, as it provides initial assurance that the person in the photograph is the same person presenting to submit the passport application form.
In the case of an application for a minor the witnessing of this form provides evidence that guardians give consent for a passport to be issued to the child. In order to protect the integrity of the Irish passport and also the rights of parents or guardians and children, it is important that forms are correctly completed and verified by the Passport Service by calling the Garda station to confirm the Garda's signature.
It is stated in a note to the witness on the identity and consent forms that they may be contacted to confirm the validity of their signature. It is the responsibility of the witnessing Garda to ensure that the signature is correctly recorded in the logbook, so that when the Passport Service calls at a later date the signature can be verified.
There are a small number of cases where the Passport Service has difficulty contacting a Garda station in order to verify the Garda's signature. Whilst the Passport Service makes every effort to contact the Garda station in these cases, unfortunately, the passport application may be delayed. In some cases, the applicant may be requested to submit a new witnessed form where the Passport Service has been unable to contact the Garda station. The Passport Service will only request a new witness form after multiple attempts have been made to contact the Garda station.
A new document management system that was put in place at the beginning of March is ensuring that these applications which require further documents are being turned around within 15 working days of receipt of the additional documents.
It is not the experience of the Passport Service that failure to contact Garda stations to verify witnesses is a widespread issue.
The Passport Service is continuously looking at ways to make the application process easier for applicants and advises during the online application process to make sure that the identity and consent form is correctly witnessed once they have completed the online process.
The Passport Service provides instructions on how to correctly complete these forms on the Department's website (www.dfa.ie/passports/how-to-get-your-application-witnessed/).
The Passport Service is also working on public education materials, including video tutorials, with a view to assisting applicants to complete their application correctly.
In addition to this, the Passport Service maintains a close working relationship with An Garda Síochána and regularly offers training and guidance to Gardaí on the correct completion of the required identity and consent forms.
The Passport Service published a full-page informational advertisement in the April and May editions of An Garda Síochána’s magazine, the Garda Review, to assist Gardaí with the process of witnessing passport identity and consent forms. This advertisement includes the information that Passport Service will ring the Garda station to verify all first time passport applicants’ consent form details.
The Passport Service takes its responsibility to protect the integrity of the Irish passport very seriously. The Irish passport has a strong international reputation due to the strength of the security features within the passport book and the robust processes involved in its issuance. The Irish passport was recently ranked 5th in the Henley Global Passport Index as it provides our citizens with visa-free access to 187 countries.
There are no plans at present to amend the process for the witnessing of identity and consent forms by An Garda Síochána.
211. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of incomplete passport applications that require further action from the applicant that are as a result of witnesses being uncontactable. [24025/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 to 211, inclusive, together.
There are currently 88,000 first time online passport applications in the Passport Service system. Of these, 39,000 (44%) are incomplete passport applications which require further action from the applicant. Figures show that consistently 40% of applications in the Passport Service system are incomplete.
It is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy in relation to the number of incomplete passport applications that require further action from the applicant as a result of the witness being uncontactable as the Passport Service does not maintain such records. In these circumstances, the Passport Service makes every effort to contact the witness, and will only request a new identity or consent form following multiple attempts to reach the witness.