Mark Stedman/
level 5

Passport Office to begin processing some applications as categories of 'reasonable excuses' for travel expanded

People have expressed their frustration at having to wait since Christmas for their passport application to be processed.

THE PASSPORT OFFICE is ready to begin issuing more passports to applicants after expanding the criteria for what is a reasonable excuse to travel during the period of Level 5 restrictions. 

From this week, it will process passport applications for people who can show proof of needing to travel for reasons such as work, education, to attend a funeral or attend to family matters such as providing care to vulnerable persons.

It also said that appropriate resources will be put in place for passports to be issued in such circumstances.

However, the Passport Office will not return to processing all passport applications until the Level 5 restrictions lift. 

Last week, reported that parents who had to submit their own passports as part of their child’s application for a passport could be waiting as long as six months to receive their own one back.

This is because the Passport Service had paused most of its operations in line with Level 5 restrictions currently in place in Ireland since late December. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs had said that it would not resume full operations until restrictions are eased, and this means it cannot retrieve these documents until then.

The cessation of most operations has left many who submitted applications without either their passport or their supporting ID documents. These documents could include a person’s own passport or their Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) card, which is an essential document for non-EU nationals in Ireland.

Numerous applicants for passports have expressed their frustration at being unable to get their documents back and have their application progressed. Some politicians, meanwhile, have called for a solution to be in place and have pointed to other jurisdictions which are still processing passports during lockdown measures. 

Under the period of Level 5 so far, passports have only been processed for travel in an emergency.

An emergency was defined on the passport website as “death or grave illness of an immediate family member, with a need for urgent travel within the next few days or for emergency medical treatment of the applicant”.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs has today confirmed to that this criteria has now been expanded to include a greater range of applicants. 

A spokesperson said: “A recent amendment to the Health Act 1947, which came into effect on 1 February 2021, has expanded the criteria of what is considered a reasonable excuse for non-essential travel.

Applicants who require a passport for these purposes should contact the Passport Service via our Customer Service Hub Webchat function on our website once they have evidence to substantiate their request. The Passport Service have ensured that appropriate resources are in place to respond to such requests.

The Passport Office will now begin to process applications for applicants who meet this critieria.

Under the amendment to Health Act 1947, this includes:

  • A person leaving the state for work
  • Attend school, a university or other education and training facility (to the extent it is necessary to attend in person)
  • Accompany to a school or university someone you reside with or a vulnerable person
  • Attend a medical or dental appointment, or accompany a person you reside with or a vulnerable person to such an appointment
  • Seek essential medical, health or dental advice
  • Attend to vital family matters, such as care to a vulnerable person
  • Attend a funeral
  • In cases where a person is not ordinarily resident in the State is leaving the State

For Irish citizens overseas wishing to get a passport under these reasons, they should make contact through the local Irish Embassy or Consulate General, the spokesperson added.

The issue of travel to and from Dublin Airport has hit the headlines in recent times. 

Last month, reports emerged that Irish people were booking appointments at a dental clinic on one of the Canary Islands so they can go on holiday. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris that An Garda Síochána does not “regard a dentist’s appointment in Tenerife as being a reasonable excuse to travel”. 

Gardaí have been conducting checkpoints outside the airport to ensure people are travelling for essential reasons. 

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