DÁIL QUESTIONS WITH MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ON PASSPORT APPLICATIONS

  1. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the supports he is providing to the Passport Office to assist in the speedy processing of the increasing numbers of passport applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18002/17]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Minister recently told me that the Passport Office processed almost 750,000 applications for renewals and new passports in 2016 and that he expected a rise of approximately 9% this year. Of course there was the Brexit spike, to which the Minister has referred in some replies. His own Department has been very efficient and kind in response to queries I have raised, and I am sure, in response to other Deputies as well. There is growing concern that, as the website of the Passport Office states, processing times are a guideline only and not a guarantee. We have case after case of families being very distressed as their time for departure for a holiday fast approaches and no passport is delivered.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: There have been very significant increases in passport applications in recent years. A total of almost 750,000 applications was received in 2016. This was an increase of more than 9% over 2015. Between 1 January and 31 March this year, over 250,000 applications were received, which represented an increase of 26% over the same period last year. There are a number of factors behind these increases. The decision by the UK to leave the European Union has undoubtedly had an impact but so too has an expanding population and an increase in outbound travel in recent years. The passport service’s stated aim is to process passport renewal applications within 15 working days of receipt, provided that the documentation is in order. Applicants are advised that the turnaround time will vary depending on factors such as seasonal demand. Turnaround times for each category of applicant are updated every week on the passport service website. Despite the high volumes, the target turnaround time of 15 working days was met in almost 90% of cases last year and it is just over the target – by one day – in recent weeks. First-time applications are subject to longer turnaround times due to the extra verifications involved to protect the integrity of this important document. The current turnaround time for first-time applications is 24 working days. In all cases, as a matter of best practice, applicants are advised to allow at least six weeks for the processing of a passport and to use the passport express service only if they have no immediate travel plans.   The exceptional level of demand is likely be sustained into the summer months and we have worked hard to put in place a number of measures, including additional staffing resources, to mitigate the impact. A total of 230 temporary clerical officers has been assigned to the Passport Office to assist with the processing of passport applications and to respond to customer queries. The great majority of these officers are already in place. I launched a new online passport application service for adults renewing their passports on 30 March last. This new service will greatly assist in managing increased volumes of applications in the months and years ahead and in meeting target turnaround times. It allows citizens to renew their passport books and cards online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from wherever they are in the world. The service removes the requirement to have a form witnessed and is a fast, secure and convenient way to renew a passport.      Additional information not given on the floor of the House   The target turnaround time is ten working days plus postage time. I urge all Deputies to encourage all eligible applicants to use this channel.   I also ask Deputies to continue to help promote good practice in communications with constituents. As I mentioned, as a matter of best practice and to avoid unnecessary stress, applicants should allow six weeks for a passport application. Applicants should always check the validity of their passport before booking travel. If travel is already booked, it is very important that applicants carefully consult the passport service website and use the correct channel. The website has a free renewal reminder service for passport holders and I also strongly encourage people to avail of this service which is available through my Department’s website.   I fully appreciate the pressures the current exceptionally high levels of demand are putting on travel plans. I assure the Deputy that I will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure the effective deployment of staff and other resources in order that the impact on turnaround times for applicants and on customer service is minimised.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: When I review the files from my own office of people who I have represented, time after time one sees that while a passport should have been issued on a particular date according to the tracker on the website, somebody’s departure date is coming up within a few days and there is still no sign of the passport. As I have said, I am grateful for the fact that the Department has been able to help out in such cases.

On additional resources, are all 230 staff members now in place? The Minister said that some of them are still being recruited. The Minister has said that there is going to be a passport reform programme – which includes the online application which was launched just a few days ago – but it includes a ten-working day turnaround when even the 15-working day turnaround does not seem to be working. There are also complaints from constituents saying that access to the Passport Office itself also needs reform. Our constituents often turn to us as Deputies because they are simply unable to reach the office by telephone or e-mail. The lack of contact obviously adds to the stress. I note that in the UK it seems to take just about three weeks to get a passport in a country of 65 million people. In Germany it takes four to six weeks. We need further reforms.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: The introduction of the new online service is part of the ongoing programme of reform in the Passport Office. I acknowledge what the Deputy has said in respect of those working there. I too wish to acknowledge the efficiency and dedication of everybody associated with, and working in, the Passport Office. There are challenges, however, because we are dealing with unprecedented numbers.

I appeal to Deputies to continue to help promote good practice in their communications with constituents in order to avoid unnecessary stress. My advice continues to be that applicants should allow six weeks for a passport application. Applicants should also check the validity of their passport before booking travel. If travel is already booked, it is very important that applicants carefully consult the passport service website and use the correct channel. The website has a free renewal reminder service for passport holders and I strongly encourage people to avail of this service, which is available through our own website. I fully appreciate the pressure that the current exceptionally high levels of demand are putting on people’s travel plans. I assure Deputy Broughan and other Deputies that I will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure the effective deployment of staff and other resources in order to ensure that we give the best possible service to our citizens in the matter of their applications.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Many of us have put a notice to the effect of what the Minister has said on our websites, Facebook pages and so on.

I notice a huge increase in demand for passports from countries like South Africa, Australia, the UAE, Canada and so on. Many thousands of applications were made in 2015 and 2016. Does the Department have any idea how many people worldwide have an Irish passport? What are the eligibility levels? I remember asking the former Deputy Gilmore, when he was Minister, the very same question and he could not give me an answer. Does the Department actually know?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: There are millions of Irish passport holders worldwide. I again acknowledge the challenges for the Passport Office in dealing with unprecedented numbers of applications. Over 733,000 passports were issued last year for Irish citizens. I encourage Irish citizens to check the expiry dates on their passports and to bear in mind that many countries require incoming visitors to hold passports which are valid for at least six months. That can be a challenge. While acknowledging the challenges and pressures in this area, I assure the House that the programme of passport reform will ensure that we will have one of the finest and most efficient online passport services in the world. I am anxious to ensure that the impact on turnaround times for applicants and would-be travellers will be minimized.

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Tommy's Dáil speech on Statements on Jobs

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Adjournment Debate on Autism Services
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Adjournment Debate on Autism Services

Tommy questioning the Minister for Education on third level funding and access
Tommy questioning the Minister for Education on third level funding and access

Tommy's speech on Dáil Reform Report
Tommy's speech on Dáil Reform Report

Tommy questioning the Tanaiste on Garda resources
Tommy questioning the Tanaiste on Garda resources

Tommy's speech on the Adoption Bill
Tommy's speech on the Adoption Bill

Tommy's speech on Ministerial appointments of 32nd Dáil
Tommy's speech on Ministerial appointments of 32nd Dáil

Tommy's speech during Statements on Crime
Tommy's speech during Statements on Crime

Tommy's speech during Statements on Irish Water
Tommy's speech during Statements on Irish Water

Tommy's speech during Statements on Mental Health
Tommy's speech during Statements on Mental Health

Tommy's speech during Statements on EU/UK Relations
Tommy's speech during Statements on EU/UK Relations

Tommy's speech on Taoiseach nominations
Tommy's speech on Taoiseach nominations

Tommy's speech during Statements on Housing and Homelessness
Tommy's speech during Statements on Housing and Homelessness

Tommy questioning the Minister for Finance
Tommy questioning the Minister for Finance

Tommy questioning the Minister  for Transport on mututal recognition of disqualified drivers
Tommy questioning the Minister for Transport on mututal recognition of disqualified drivers

Tommy's Topical Issue Debate on RSA and road safety statistics
Tommy's Topical Issue Debate on RSA and road safety statistics

Tommy questioning the Minister for Education and Skills
Tommy questioning the Minister for Education and Skills

Tommy's Dáil speech on dredging in Howth Harbour
Tommy's Dáil speech on dredging in Howth Harbour

Tommy questioning Minister White on Eircode
Tommy questioning Minister White on Eircode

Tommy questioning Minister Kelly on Housing and Homelessness
Tommy questioning Minister Kelly on Housing and Homelessness

Tommy's Dáil speech on Social Welfare Bill 2015
Tommy's Dáil speech on Social Welfare Bill 2015

Tommy questioning Minister Bruton on Cadbury Coolock
Tommy questioning Minister Bruton on Cadbury Coolock

Tommy's Dáil speech on Topical Issues Debate on Drink-driving Conviction Rates
Tommy's Dáil speech on Topical Issues Debate on Drink-driving Conviction Rates

Tommy's Dáil speech on Budget 2016
Tommy's Dáil speech on Budget 2016

Tommy 's Dáil speech on Financial Resolutions No.4 Budget 2016
Tommy 's Dáil speech on Financial Resolutions No.4 Budget 2016

Tommy's Dáil speech on Sinn Féin's Social Housing Motion
Tommy's Dáil speech on Sinn Féin's Social Housing Motion

Tommy questioning Tánaiste on One Parent Family Payments
Tommy questioning Tánaiste on One Parent Family Payments

Tommy's Topical Issue Debate on  the Malahide Road Re-alignment
Tommy's Topical Issue Debate on the Malahide Road Re-alignment

Tommy questioning Minister for Health on Fair Deal Scheme
Tommy questioning Minister for Health on Fair Deal Scheme

Tommy questioning Minister Reilly on UN Review on the Rights of the Child
Tommy questioning Minister Reilly on UN Review on the Rights of the Child

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Civil Debt Procedures Bill 2015
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Civil Debt Procedures Bill 2015

Tommy 's question to Minister Coveney on BSE case
Tommy 's question to Minister Coveney on BSE case

Tommy's Dáil speech on St Michael's House Funding
Tommy's Dáil speech on St Michael's House Funding

Tommy's Dáil speech on the  Low Pay Commission
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Low Pay Commission

Tommy's Dáil speech questioning on uplifts to Rent Supplement
Tommy's Dáil speech questioning on uplifts to Rent Supplement

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Urban Regeneration and Housing Bill 2015
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Urban Regeneration and Housing Bill 2015

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Commission of Investigation into IBRC
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Commission of Investigation into IBRC

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015

Tommy's Dáil speech questioning Minister O'Sullivan on autism service
Tommy's Dáil speech questioning Minister O'Sullivan on autism service

Tommy's Dáil speech against sale of Aer Lingus
Tommy's Dáil speech against sale of Aer Lingus

Tommy's Dáil questions to Minister Flanagan on China
Tommy's Dáil questions to Minister Flanagan on China

Tommy's Dáil questions To Minister Richard Bruton on Cadbury Coolock
Tommy's Dáil questions To Minister Richard Bruton on Cadbury Coolock

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 2014
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 2014

Tommy's Dáil speech on Topical Issue Debate on National Bus Strike
Tommy's Dáil speech on Topical Issue Debate on National Bus Strike

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Spring Economic Statement
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Spring Economic Statement

Tommy's closing Dáil speech on his High Pay and Wealth Commission Bill
Tommy's closing Dáil speech on his High Pay and Wealth Commission Bill

Tommy's Dáil speech on Peace and Neutrality
Tommy's Dáil speech on Peace and Neutrality

Tommy's opening Dáil speech on his High Pay and Wealth Commission Bill
Tommy's opening Dáil speech on his High Pay and Wealth Commission Bill

Tommy's Dáil speech on Neutrality Bill
Tommy's Dáil speech on Neutrality Bill

Tommy questioning the Tánaiste on changes to One-Parent Family Payment in the Dáil
Tommy questioning the Tánaiste on changes to One-Parent Family Payment in the Dáil

Tommy's contribution to the Topical Issue Matter of Cadbury Coolock job losses in Dáil Éireann
Tommy's contribution to the Topical Issue Matter of Cadbury Coolock job losses in Dáil Éireann

Tommy questioning Health Ministers in the Dáil on services for children with autism
Tommy questioning Health Ministers in the Dáil on services for children with autism

Tommy's Dáil speech in support on Jake's Law
Tommy's Dáil speech in support on Jake's Law

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill

Tommy's Dáil speech on rising rents and the need for Rent Regulation
Tommy's Dáil speech on rising rents and the need for Rent Regulation

Tommy's Dáil speech on his submission for Budget 2015
Tommy's Dáil speech on his submission for Budget 2015

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Garda Síochana (Amendment) (No.3) Bill
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Garda Síochana (Amendment) (No.3) Bill

Tommy's Dáil speech on the Road Traffic (No.2) Bill 2014
Tommy's Dáil speech on the Road Traffic (No.2) Bill 2014

Tommy raises constituents' concerns regarding North Dublin Oil Pipeline
Tommy raises constituents' concerns regarding North Dublin Oil Pipeline

Tommy's speech on Social Clauses in Public Procurement Bill 2013
Tommy's speech on Social Clauses in Public Procurement Bill 2013

Tommy speaks on Workplace Relations Bill 2014
Tommy speaks on Workplace Relations Bill 2014

Tommy asks Minister Paschal Donohoe to introduce third payment option for penalty points offences
Tommy asks Minister Paschal Donohoe to introduce third payment option for penalty points offences

Tommy urges Minister Kelly to immediately deal with social housing crisis
Tommy urges Minister Kelly to immediately deal with social housing crisis

Topical Issue Debate on Allegations of Illegal Activity in Some Contracts under the School Building Programme
Topical Issue Debate on Allegations of Illegal Activity in Some Contracts under the School Building Programme

Tommy's Speech to the Dáil on the Wind Turbine Regulation Bill
Tommy's Speech to the Dáil on the Wind Turbine Regulation Bill

Tommy asks Minister Rabbitte about Possibility of Introducing Rent Controls
Tommy asks Minister Rabbitte about Possibility of Introducing Rent Controls

Tommy's Dáil Speech on State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill 2014
Tommy's Dáil Speech on State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill 2014

Tommy's Dáil Speech on Judicial Appointments Procedures Bill 2013
Tommy's Dáil Speech on Judicial Appointments Procedures Bill 2013

Tommy's Dáil Speech on Cemetery Management Bill 2013
Tommy's Dáil Speech on Cemetery Management Bill 2013

Dáil Statement by Tommy on Social Housing Crisis
Dáil Statement by Tommy on Social Housing Crisis

Tommy speaks in Dáil on Garda Inspectorate Report
Tommy speaks in Dáil on Garda Inspectorate Report

Tommy asks Minister Joan Burton about Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times
Tommy asks Minister Joan Burton about Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Tommy's Statement to the Dáil in response to Allegations about An Garda Síochána
Tommy's Statement to the Dáil in response to Allegations about An Garda Síochána

Tommy speaks on Offshore Wind Energy Plan in Dáil Éireann
Tommy speaks on Offshore Wind Energy Plan in Dáil Éireann

Dáil Speech by Tommy on Roads Bill 2014
Dáil Speech by Tommy on Roads Bill 2014

Tommy asks Minister Noonan about future of Irish Nationwide Mortgage Holders
Tommy asks Minister Noonan about future of Irish Nationwide Mortgage Holders

Tommy Calls for Commission of Investigation into Stardust Fire in Dáil Éireann
Tommy Calls for Commission of Investigation into Stardust Fire in Dáil Éireann

Tommy's Dáil Statement on Effects of Recent Flooding
Tommy's Dáil Statement on Effects of Recent Flooding

Tommy asks Minister Deenihan about War Commemorations
Tommy asks Minister Deenihan about War Commemorations

Tommy Broughan TD asks Taoiseach about Commission of Investigation for Stardust Fire
Tommy Broughan TD asks Taoiseach about Commission of Investigation for Stardust Fire

Tommy Broughan TD speaks at Conference 09
Tommy Broughan TD speaks at Conference 09

Tommy Questions Taoiseach on Aer Lingus Dispute
Tommy Questions Taoiseach on Aer Lingus Dispute

Tommy's Dail Speech on Illegal Occupations in Newtown Court & Clongriffin
Tommy's Dail Speech on Illegal Occupations in Newtown Court & Clongriffin

Tommy's Dáil speech on National Minimum Wage
Tommy's Dáil speech on National Minimum Wage

Labour Party Conference 2010
Labour Party Conference 2010

Dail Tourism Debate
Dail Tourism Debate

Labour Party Conference 2009
Labour Party Conference 2009

Dublin Bay North