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Joanna Milaszewska-Walkowiak
Passport Office

Woman's passport renewal in limbo after a five-month Covid delay, a tech glitch and 'no one to help'

The Galway woman is planning to leave the country next month, and has waited five months for her 10-year-old son’s passport to be renewed.

A WOMAN LIVING in Galway has expressed her extreme frustration at the Passport Office after waiting for over five months for her son’s passport to be renewed.

Just weeks out from her family’s flight to leave the country, the woman was left struggling to contact a staff member about a Government website’s technical glitch, which has left her unable to progress the passport application.

The woman has been told that it is hoped the solution will be solved shortly – but it’s unclear whether her 10-year-old son’s passport will be renewed in time for her families’ departure from Ireland.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has stated that there is an issue with “a small number” of resubmission links for photographs, consent forms for children, and first-time adult witness forms in passport applications.

Irish citizen Joanna Milaszewska-Walkowiak, her husband and her two children live in Galway, but they plan next month to move to Poland to live with her parents, aged in their 70s, who they have not seen for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.

“We had been kicked out of our house where we are renting, which threw our lives upside down, so we said ‘let’s just go’,” she told The Journal.

After submitting a renewal application for her 10-year-old son’s passport five months ago, she was told by email last week that a signature on one of the forms was in the incorrect place, and would need to be resubmitted. 

She was told that this process needed to be done via a link sent to her through the Department’s webchat function.

But due to the technical issue with resubmission links for consent forms for children, the DFA cannot send a new link until this issue is resolved. 

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused,” the DFA statement said. It is understood that they expect the issue to be resolved shortly.

This glitch, which Milaszewska-Walkowiak was first made aware of last Monday, has left the woman unable to progress her son’s passport application, which was first submitted five months ago.

In addition to this, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ webchat function has been extremely busy and, because of this, rarely available to contact a staff member.

Webchat unavailable The DFA webchat function is extremely busy at the moment. DFA Webchat DFA Webchat

The woman and her family are due to travel back to Poland on 20 June; the lease on their Galway home also ends on that date.

The Passport Office’s workforce has, until recently, been curtailed due to Covid-19 restrictions. It operated on a rotation system during Level 5 restrictions, where a third of the Passport Office’s staff would be ‘on site’ at the Department of Foreign Affairs’ offices at any one time.

This resulted in significant delays to passport applications, renewals and queries: with over 90,000 applications for Irish passports outstanding.

At the end of April, the Irish Government deemed the Passport Office an essential service, on foot of a memo brought to Cabinet by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

The Passport Office’s full workforce are now working from the office, which is expected to speed the process up. Coveney said at the time that when the Passport Office is fully operational – ie, with the full workforce on site – it can process about 120,000 passports a month.

But Joanna Milaszewska-Walkowiak has said she has not noticed a difference since the Passport Office has been deemed an ‘essential service’. 

“You can’t ring them, they don’t reply to emails, and they don’t see me moving away as an emergency… The only emergency is a death,” she said.

Her son’s application was due for renewal in February, and so she submitted the form early to avoid delays such as these.

“We have nowhere to live from 20 June, I’m hitting the walls, and they have no one to help me. There’s nothing we can do.” 

“They had six months and nothing… I’m just so stressed. This shouldn’t happen.” 

Twice she has cancelled flights back to see her parents, as advice on travel restrictions changed, and Milaszewska-Walkowiak wanted to adhere to Covid-19 rules.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs gave assurances that all applications currently on hand will have been processed by the end of June.

“The Passport Service is processing applications in date order beginning with renewals and then first time applicants. Simple adult applications continue to be processed through accelerated decision making.”

The statement says that the Customer Service Hub is available to assist if there is an emergency, despite that function not being available very often due to the level of demand for its services.

The DFA spokesperson added: “Approximately 30,000 passport books and cards have been processed since the Passport Service was re-categorised as an essential service and approximately 90,000 passports have been issued in total in 2021.”

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