Passport Service aims to double staff numbers as backlog rises to 113,000

Passport Service aims to double staff numbers as backlog rises to 113,000

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. File photo: Collins

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.

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.

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.

“This is important both for the integrity of the Irish Passport and to safeguard children,” the spokesperson said.

Demand for passports is expected to surge in the coming months as international travel takes off.

Cassidy Travel director John Spollen said the “rebound is happening” and the demand so far this month is like a “pre-pandemic January”.

“Overseas holiday enquiries and bookings picked up as soon as Ireland’s testing restrictions were eased,” he said. 

So many people are going to say 'yes' to travel this year, bookings for overseas travel are on the increase.

A knock-on effect is pressure on the passport service, and the recruitment drive in recent months is aimed at meeting that expected rise in demand.

The Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said that work has been ongoing with the Public Appointments Service to recruit additional permanent and temporary staff for assignment to the Passport Service.

“This recruitment drive has been underway since the last quarter of 2021 and will double the number of staff in the Passport Service from June 2021 levels,” the spokesperson said.

“Significant numbers of additional staff are being assigned to the Passport Service in January, February and March. The additional staff will help to reduce turnaround times and to respond to the current and anticipated high demand for first time and renewal passports in 2022.”

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