How long will it take to renew my expired passport?
The passport service was suspended when the country went into Level 5 lockdown
If you need your passport because of bereavement, illness, medical treatment overseas, adoption or surrogacy, you can request an urgent renewal via the customer service hub. Photograph: iStock
My passport is out of date. Can I get it renewed?
The passport service was suspended when the country went into Level 5 lockdown on Christmas Eve. While it has been possible to make an online application throughout that time, a better question is how long it will take for your application to be processed. Some of the uncertainty has been removed now with the re-categorisation of the Passport Office as an essential service on Thursday, but the backlog won’t be cleared overnight.
Okay, I’ll bite. How long should it take?
Until this week, non-urgent applicants could expect to get it back in up to eight weeks from whenever Ireland returned to lockdown Level 4… or the length of a piece of string minus the sum of the square on the other two sides. It was, to put it another way, difficult to predict. Some people were left waiting months; others got theirs back within a few days, and the order of processing appeared to be, to give it the technical term, entirely random. Now, with the Passport Office set to reopen, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is confident the backlog can be cleared “within a number of weeks”, and that when the service is fully up and running, up to 120,000 applications can be processed in a month.
So just how big is this backlog?
The Dáil was told earlier in the month it was 92,000; by Thursday of this week, it had come down to 89,000, which suggests progress is already under way to work through the logjam.
Can we blame Brexit?
Maybe just a bit. According to recent media reports, just 44,000 of the applications in the backlog were from people in the Republic of Ireland.
So you’re telling me no one in the Passport Service has been at work since Christmas Eve?
In fact, about one-third of Passport Office staff have been working “on the floor” processing applications. Other staff have been redeployed to contact tracing and Covid benefits, though the Passport Office last week didn’t respond to an inquiry about how many. Some work has been done: 45,000 passports have been issued this year, including 3,500 in response to urgent requests. That’s way down on the same period in 2019 when 420,000 passports were issued.
Hmmm. Revenue staff have been working away remotely throughout the pandemic, and driver licences are still being issued.
Good point, and you’re not alone in being frustrated. Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond told the Dáil that “regardless of Level 5 restrictions, it is not good enough” that people were left in “absolute limbo” since December. The rationale for suspending the service was that “passport service staff do not have access to private, personal data when working outside of our secure offices”. There are suggestions that the layout of the passport office in Balbriggan made social distancing difficult.
Is there anything I can do to shunt things along?
Yes, if you need it because of bereavement, illness, medical treatment overseas, adoption or surrogacy, you can request an urgent renewal via the customer service hub. Other exceptions are made for work and education purposes. Many people have been expressing frustration at not having a valid passport for things such as mortgage applications or opening a bank account, and Mr Coveney acknowledged this week that passports were required for many purposes other than travel.
So when they say ‘within a number of weeks’…
You could be looking at another six to eight weeks, according to the Passport Office. “In 2019, the Passport Service demonstrated that it was possible to process over 100,000 applications on a monthly basis. It is not directly comparable to the current situation as the Passport Service must provide a safe workplace,” a statement said this week. “This is why we are estimating a processing time for the applications on hand of six-eight weeks.”