20pc of applications for first-time passport left waiting over a month

Ralph Riegel and Allison Bray

One in five people applying for a passport for the first time are now waiting a month or more for their application to be processed – while just 1pc of passport renewals received by post or online fail to be issued within the standard turnaround time.

It comes as the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the Passport Service is dealing with record demand as Ireland is gripped by a travel surge after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Such has been the demand that, to ease future pressures, the Government is considering opening dedicated passport offices in Galway and Belfast.

However, passport delays have peaked, with the roll-out of extra staff – diverted back from Covid-19 administrative duties – and the gradual easing of travel demand set to allow the overwhelming majority of applications to be processed within normal timeframes.

A Department of Foreign Affairs official confirmed that 2022 now ranked as the busiest year on record for passport demand.

“Our service is seeing record demand, beating the previous busiest year (2019) by almost 20pc,” they said.

“Some 560,000 passports have been issued to date in 2022. This is 90,000 more than were issued at this point of the year in 2019.”

At its peak of operations this month, an average of 7,000 passports per day were being issued – a 40pc hike on the figure from just two months earlier.

“While the service is experiencing a very high volume of applications, passports are being processed and dispatched in a continuous stream, including new applications which arrive daily.

“Completed applications are being processed by the Passport Service within the average turnaround times.

“The service is not in a position to provide updates on the number of applications currently being processed.”

However, the Irish Independent has confirmed that just 1pc of passport renewals – which represents 80pc of all applications received by the service – do not have their passports issued within the standard turnaround time.

Fifty per cent of all adults who renew their passports online will get their new passport in the post within two working days.

The problems over extended processing times and issuance delays have focused almost entirely on new passport applications.

Seventeen per cent of first-time online applications were waiting beyond the average waiting time of 30 working days, the department confirmed.

The proportion of online renewals for adult passports already in the system, that have exceeded a turnaround time of 10 working days for simple adult renewals and 15 working days for complex adult renewals, stands at 1.31pc.

“The average turnaround time begins from the date any required supporting documents are received by the Passport Service, not the online registration date. Applications that are incomplete and require the Passport Service to contact the applicant to request new documents, forms or photos will take longer than the average turnaround time.”

Moreover, the department said the reason for the delay in processing first-time applications was because the Passport Service must “contact witnesses to confirm identity and, in the case of the children, guardians’ consent”.

Ireland experienced an explosion in the number of passport applications from February as people weary of Covid restrictions wanted to travel.

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