The Passport Service is recruiting “significant numbers of additional staff” in the coming weeks, as it seeks to deal with a surge in demand and clear the backlog with 113,000 applications currently in the system.
Demand for passports is expected to surge in the coming months as people begin to travel internationally in much greater numbers. The passport service hopes to have doubled the number of staff compared to June 2021 levels once the recruitment drive has been completed.
As the Irish Examiner reports, the Passport Office was closed to all but urgent applications for long periods during the pandemic, leading to a large backlog building up.
When Level 5 restrictions came into effect in December 2020 and lasted for a number of months, for example, people went for months without documents they had sent in as part of their passport applications.
However, the Department of Foreign Affairs has said the Passport Service has been fully functioning since May 2021 with all operational staff in attendance.
Urgent appointment service
While the backlog has built up, the service has also operated an urgent appointment service which offers a same-day or four-day service in Cork and Dublin.
Public representatives have frequently raised the matter of delays with the minister, and have often been directed towards this urgent appointment service.
A spokesperson said: “The number of Passport Online applications in the system is currently approximately 113,000.
“The applications can be divided as incomplete applications standing at 51,000 (where we are awaiting documentation from applicants), and 62,000 applications with the Passport Service currently processing.”
The current turnaround times for straightforward adult online renewals are 10 working days, and 15 working days for complex or child online renewals.
On the other hand, the average turnaround time for first-time applications on Passport Online is 40 working days, and eight weeks for An Post’s mail-in Passport Express service.
A department spokesperson said that the first-time applications are taking longer to process as it is critical to ensure that the applicant is entitled to Irish citizenship and, in the case of children, that the consent of all guardians is obtained.