‘Express’ passport process much slower than online application
Very significant discrepancies in waiting times depending on application process chosen
Of the 99,319 applications made in the first five months of this year under the passport express system for renewals, only 2,718 were processed within 10 working days. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
The “express” process for applying for a passport is considerably slower than applying for the document online, it has emerged.
While just over 90 per cent of passports applied for online are processed within 10 days, fewer than 2 per cent of applications under the “passport express renewals” system are processed as quickly.
The figure is even lower for people using passport express to apply for passports to replace those that are lost or stolen.
Information supplied to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by the Passport Office reveals that despite the passport express system taking much longer on average than online, twice as many applications have been made under it compared to the online system.
It shows there are very significant discrepancies in waiting times for passports depending on how they are applied for.
The Passport Office has in recent years experienced an increase in applications for Irish passports, partly influenced by Brexit.
In the first five months of 2016, the number of applications was 384,000. That increased to 428,000 last year and was higher again this year; some 464,000 applications to the end of May.
Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and from the Passport Office were on Thursday morning set to appear before a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer questions as delays build with passport applications.
PAC chairman Seán Fleming TD (FF) has said his constituency office had witnessed a very large number of queries about passport applications. And he was aware other politicians had experienced the same issue.
He added that almost €50 million income was gathered by the Passport Office.
“The committee will be keen to discuss passport and visa consular fees, which make up the bulk of receipts,” Mr Fleming said.
“The PAC will be examining the management and efficiency of the Passport Office, as well as processing times for passport applications.
“The committee will be interested to see if the Passport Office is meeting its own targets in respect of processing times.”
In advance of the PAC meeting, data supplied by the Passport Office confirmed there were long delays for passports. But the information also revealed that applications for passports made online were almost all being processed within 10 days.
Of the 102,638 passports applied for online in the first five months of this year, some 91,664 were processed within 10 working days. And 10,365 took between 11 and 20 working days.
However, of the 99,319 applications made under the passport express system for renewals, only 2,718 were processed within 10 working days. The majority – 80,763 – took 11 to 20 working days. And 16,000 took between 21 and 50 working days.
Similar delays were being encountered by those using the passport express system for first-time applications or to replace lost or stolen passports.
Of the 106,418 applications made under the expressed system for first-time, lost or stolen passports, only 1,917 were process in 10 working days.
Some 53,648 were processed within 11 to 20 working days. And more than a quarter – 27,036 applications – took between 21 and 30 working days.