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Passport Office unable to say when people who sent their passport in pre-lockdown will get it back

The Passport Office has said it won’t resume normal service until the end of Level 5 restrictions.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/ConorReid

PARENTS WHO HAD to submit their own passports as part of the application for their child to get a passport may have to wait as long as six months to receive their own back.

Furthermore, anyone who had to submit additional documentation as part of their passport application process may not have these documents returned to them at present, with the exception of emergency circumstances. 

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

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

With the government previously signalling that it may not begin to ease restrictions on a wide basis until May, it could mean that applicants who submitted documents in late December may not get them back until June. 

TheJournal.ie has spoken to a number of parents – both Irish and overseas nationals – who submitted documents such as their own passports and their child’s birth certificate as part of the application for their passport. 

In one case involving a non-EU national who’s been living in Ireland since 2014, he was unable to return home following the death of a family member as he was unable to have his passport returned to him. 

He and his wife submitted their documentation to the Passport Service for their son’s application in December.

“We did lose family which was mentioned to [the Passport Service], and we can’t even plan a trip without our documents,” he said. “Also, I need my GNIB [Irish residence permit] to send together with the statutory declaration for my citizenship, which I can’t do since I don’t have it.

“At this stage, I’m considering contacting a solicitor to get my documents back.”

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said it’s “not really good enough” that people are going without such essential documentation as their own passport while they wait for the service to resume. 

“Some documentation is vital,” he said. “A lot of people would need it for doing any sort of serious work. They might need it for a mortgage application, a rent application. 

“I think that’s something that should be looked at again by the minister. It’s something that should be reviewed.”

In a notice on its website, the Passport Office said that while it paused operations, for now, any applications will be processed as soon as it resumes. 

“If you have submitted supporting documentation to us, it will be held securely,” it said. “However, we cannot retrieve supporting documents at this time. 

We expect to return your supporting documents within 20 working days of resuming operations at Level 4.

For people who submitted documents in December, it’ll mean that under this policy they may not have their documents returned until late April at the earliest. 

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If Level 5 is extended further at the beginning of next month, that could delay this further and bring it into May or June.

In response to recent Dáil questions on the matter, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that the Passport Service has a “comprehensive plan” in place to resume all services in line with the government’s Living with Covid plan.

He also said that all applicants are contacted on the next working day after their application to request that they do not submit supporting documentation “as it cannot be processed or returned to them until Ireland returns to Level 4 on the National Framework”.

However, in the section on documentation needed to progress a child’s passport, it specifically mentions the requirement for parents’ passports. In the case of non-EU nationals, it states that their GNIB card may also be required. 

Coveney said: “When operations resume at Level 4, all applications received via Passport Online will be processed.

“The Passport Service has a great deal of experience in dealing with peaks in demand, and we are confident that any backlog will be cleared quickly. When the Passport Service resumed operations in June 2020, the backlog was cleared in four weeks. It was similar in December 2020 with the majority of the backlog cleared within three weeks.”

TheJournal.ie has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs for comment. 

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Sean Murray

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