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Concern in Passport Office as 66,000 applications outstanding (and the number's growing)

The number of applications outstanding has been consistently on the rise in recent times in the wake of the Brexit vote.

shutterstock_546540106 Source: Shutterstock/Astroette

A SIGNIFICANT BACKLOG in passport applications has developed at Ireland’s Passport Office.

Figures released to TheJournal.ie by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) show that currently 65,916 applications are outstanding (ie awaiting process).

This represents an increase from the 60,404 such applications that were outstanding at this time last year.

The single greatest reason for the backlog would appear to be Brexit.

Since the UK voting to leave the EU in June 2016, applications for Irish passports have increased to a huge extent from eligible citizens living in Britain hoping to avoid issues with free travel (and employment) throughout the union once Brexit becomes official in March 2019.

Last year saw a 33% increase (33,008) year-on-year of the number of applications received from Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

The first five months of 2017 have seen that trend explode – with a staggering 55% increase in the number of applications received from this time last year (29,792 additional applications received year-on-year until end May 2017).

It’s understood that there is a deal of concern within DFA regarding the ongoing backlog in the process of applications, although waiting times currently vary depending upon the manner of application.

TheJournal.ie contacted DFA for a statement in relation to this matter. A response had not been received at the time of publication.

dfa Source: DFA

The 66,000 applications currently outstanding are totalled from applicants in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and via DFA’s online passport renewals service.

The breakdown of outstanding applications at present is:

  • Irish applicants – 43,274 (66%)
  • Northern Irish applicants – 10,288 (16%)
  • British applicants – 8,609 (13%)
  • Online renewals – 3,745 (5%)

Separate to the 66,000 applications waiting to be processed, nearly 97,000 such applications were received last month, a 7.6% increase on the same month in 2016.

The lowest number of applications received and registered this year was in January – 70,771 (a massive 33% increase on the previous year’s total of 53,175).

In the last three months there have never been fewer than 85,000 applications received.

With the current outstanding total of 66,000, this suggests that applications are being received at a faster rate than the Passport Office can deal with them.

Waiting times

This does not as yet suggest that the backlog is creating a situation where applicants are having their passports significantly delayed.

However, the average waiting times for applications vary depending on how and from where they were applied for.

When applying (by mail, the only means to do so is via the Passport Express option through a post office – all other mail applications are returned), people are ‘strongly advised’ to get their applications in six weeks prior to travelling.

Passport renewals typically take 14 working days, while first time applicants can expect a minimum wait of 20 days (four weeks).

Emergency applications meanwhile necessitate an appointment with the Passport Office in either Cork or Dublin.

The wait-time on online renewals (new applications can only be made via post) is significantly shorter at just 10 working days (not counting postage times).

Applications traditionally spike prior to, and during, the summer months as people ready themselves for travelling abroad on holiday.

Last year, 733,060 were issued in total, a 15% increase on the 635,600 figure from just five years ago in 2012.

Backlogs regarding such State-issued documents or payments are not uncommon, with staffing issues often to blame.

In recent times the Department of Social Protection, for example, has struggled with a backlog in the payment of maternity benefits which has seen many women having given birth for a number of weeks before receiving their payments.

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