The below question was posed to Siomon Coveney in relation to the lengthy waiting times for passport renewals
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the measures he plans to introduce in order to resolve the significant backlog of passport applications that has built up at the Passport Office; if he will allocate the necessary resources to help reduce this backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Between 1 January and 23 June the Passport Service received over 499,000 passport applications, which represents a 12% increase over the same period last year.
The Passport Service is working very hard, and largely successfully, to manage the high volume of applications being received in recent months to meet the target delivery dates and avoid backlogs.
There are currently 61,000 applications in progress, which is a reduction on previous weeks. These are applications that are going through the normal entitlement checking process rather than backlogs. While the volume of applications in progress remains high, the target turnaround time for Passport Express renewal applications of 15 working days is being met, as it has been over the past six weeks. The target turnaround time for first-time applications and applications for renewal of lost, stolen or damaged passports through Passport Express is 20 working days. These categories of application take longer due to the extra security checks involved. This target turnaround time is also currently being met (down from 24 working days as of 19 June).
In addition to the 300 full-time permanent staff already assigned within my Department to the Passport Service, almost 230 Temporary Clerical Officers have been assigned to the Passport Offices in Balbriggan, Mount Street and Cork to assist in managing high seasonal demand. Targeted overtime for the Passport Service has also been sanctioned to increase processing capacity. The allocation of resources and assignment of work across offices is reviewed continually to maximise efficiency.
The fact that target turnaround times for Passport Express renewal and first-time applications are being met despite the very significant increases in volumes of applications in recent months reflects the hard work and the professionalism of Passport Service staff.
Service improvements have also made a major contribution to the effective management of the exceptionally high volumes. As the Deputy will be aware, the new Online Passport Application Service was launched at the end of March this year. As take-up of the service increases, it will considerably enhance overall passport processing capacity and contribute to reducing turnaround times for all channels. Since the launch over 38,000 passport applications were received through this channel which is well ahead of target. The target turnaround for the service is ten working days plus postage and in the majority of cases this is exceeded comfortably. I therefore urge all Deputies to encourage adults who are renewing their passports to do so online.
It is very important that applicants choose the most appropriate application channel for their individual circumstances. Passport Express should only be used by those who are travelling in three weeks or more. Anyone renewing a passport who needs to travel in under three weeks should either apply online or by appointment at the Passport Office in either Dublin or Cork.
Further, I urge all Deputies to encourage citizens to register for the free passport renewal reminder email service provided by my Department at the following web address: https://www.eforms.gov.ie/en/