Online Irish passport renewals set to start early in 2017

Passport Office says all Irish citizens will be able to renew from anywhere in the world

Irish citizens will soon be able to renew their passports online from anywhere in the world under a new service to be introduced shortly.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed plans for an online applications service, which forms part of a major €18.6 million reform programme announced for the passport service late last year.

It is envisaged that a service allowing for passport renewals could be in operation as early as the first quarter of 2017 with the roll-out of a full service available for all applicant types by early 2019.

The department recently issued two request-for-tender notices for technology solutions to facilitate the new online application process.

The move comes as the Passport Office was recently forced to take on hundreds of additional temporary staff to deal with a sharp rise in applications in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

Increase in applications
The Passport Office saw a 10 per cent increase in applications for the period January to June with numbers spiking recently as British citizens eligible for an Irish passport rushed to apply for them following the Brexit vote.

While Brexit led to a rush of applications, demand had been climbing in the years before the vote. The number of passports issued jumped from 388,000 in 2000 to 670,000 last year. More than half of all applications received annually are from citizens wishing to renew their passports.

Currently, no passport applications can be processed online with the majority being made by post.

Some €4 million was secured in Budget 2016 to help the Department of Foreign Affairs achieve its aim of reshaping how Irish passports are delivered and ensuring better security.

A new credit-card style passport card was introduced that is valid for travelling to 30 European countries. The card, which can be processed online, is open to citizens with a valid passport book at a cost of €35.

The department recently warned of the need for urgent changes to the passport application system as concern about fraud has increased. Briefing notes produced for Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and seen by The Irish Times last month urged investment in the latest anti-fraud technology and techniques to protect the "integrity and international standing of the Irish passport".

The department said in the note that the Irish passport had become a “preferred device for money-laundering and other criminal activities”.