Extra staff for passport office due to surge in demand

The passport service has been forced to draft in extra staff to cope with a substantial increase in applications. Demand is expected to increase further.

The service has issued 180,000 passport booklets, and 7,000 passport cards, since the start of the year. That’s a 14% increase on the same period last year.

Temporary clerical officers have been drafted in to cope with demand.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, they will work a total of 5,122 weeks this year, an increase of 15% on the number of weeks sanctioned, compared to last year.

“The forecast for the coming four months is for a further increase in demand, as there are a significant number of passports due for renewal,” a spokesman said.

“The level of increase, from May to the end of August, is likely to exceed 15%, compared to the same period in 2015.”

The spokesman identified a number of reasons for the increase.

“It is partly explained by the significant volume of passports issued in 2006, which is now feeding through in renewals, ten years later.

“A significant rise in outbound travel, so far this year, and Euro 2016, in France, are also feeding into the large increase in demand, in recent months, as has, to some extent, the requirement, from April 1, that all visitors to the US, under the Visa Waiver Scheme, must hold a biometric passport.”

The increased demand at home has been matched by an increase in applications from abroad.

“The number of applications received from outside the State, for the first quarter of 2015, was 43,369, and it is 49,397 over the same period in 2016,” the Department said. “This represents an increase of almost 14%, which is in line with the broader growth in demand.”

The high numbers seeking passports has had an impact on processing times.

There is a target turnaround of 10 days — which the department stresses is not a guarantee — for those applications submitted in person at the passport offices in Dublin and Cork, and through the An Post passport express service.

All applications submitted in person at the passport offices met the guideline turnaround times.

However, of the 119,831 applications processed via the passport express service, so far this year, only 58,436 have been in one working days or less. The department said the applications are being processed within 11 to 12 working days.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, said: “The passport-processing service is kept under continuous review, and we take a citizen-centred approach to do all we can to ensure passports are turned around as quickly as possible.

“Given the high demand for passports, at this time, I urge prospective travellers to apply at least six weeks in advance of travel for a passport, bearing in mind that the turnaround time is longer for first-time applicants.

“I also encourage existing passport-holders to apply for a passport card by downloading our passport card app; this wallet-sized card provides a convenient means of travel to 31 European countries.”


Lifestyle

Timothy Grady is in Bantry this week to host a concert, and read from his classic book about the Irish in London, writes Don O'Mahony.Giving voice to the emigrant experience

A care home builds links with kids, writes Helen O’Callaghan.Inside out: Children learn what it's like to live with dementia.

When you think of someone who is “into skincare”, you probably imagine someone in a face mask.The Skin Nerd: Why face masks aren’t as important as you’d think

With the evenings closing in and a welcome chill in the air, it’s time to embrace the new season now.Make the Transition: Turn over a new leaf this fall

More From The Irish Examiner