British applicants for an Irish passport face 60 day wait
Record 112,000 applications for an Irish passport ahead of original Brexit deadline
The passport office has dealt with the rise in demand by hiring 60 new full time staff.
First-time applicants for Irish passports coming from Britain face a wait of 60 working days for their document to arrive, while Northern Irish applicants are waiting 30 working days, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Applications continue to soar with a record high of 112,000 people applying for a passport in March 2019 ahead of the original Brexit deadline. This followed 100,400 applications in January 2019 and 100,500 applications in February.
Online applicants currently wait 10 working days for their new passport while passport express users receive the booklet within 15-20 working days. However, first time Northern Irish applicants face a wait of 30 working days with renewals arriving within 15 working days. First-time British applications through the Irish embassy in London are waiting six times longer than Irish online applicants while renewals through London take 20 days, according to the Passport office.
Highest number ever
More than 862,000 passports and identity cards were issued in 2018, the highest number ever issued in a single year and significantly higher than the 779,000 passports issued in 2017 and 733,000 in 2016.
More than half of Northern Irish applications in the first three months of 2019 - 29,805 - came from first-timers. The number of first time applicants from the North jumped in 2017, rising from 30,760 the previous year to 41,909 by the end of 2017. First time applications increased further in 2018 to 42,547.
Applications from England, Scotland and Wales also continue to rise with 41,000 between January and the end of March 2019 and half coming from first timers. 98,544 British applications were made in 2018, up 22 per cent on numbers in 2017. It is estimated that one in six people in Britain could be entitled to claim Irish citizenship.
The Irish passport is considered the world’s sixth most prized, according to the Henley Passport Index, because it offers visa-free travel to 184 countries around the globe. Under Ireland’s rules, foreigners can apply for citizenship if a grandparent was born in Ireland; or if one of their parents was an Irish citizen at the time of the applicant’s birth, even though they were not born in Ireland.
While the Department of Foreign Affairs says the rise in applications has been caused by a number of factors, including an increase in the number of Irish people going on foreign holidays, a significant percentage of the rise in applications is explained by Irish emigrants seeking passports for their children. The media debate around passports has also served as a reminder for many to re-apply for their document.
Passport officials fielded 4,500 phone calls and 1,500 web interactions from members of the public in the four weeks leading up to the March 29th deadline which has now been extended to October 31st.
The passport office has dealt with the rise in demand by hiring 60 new full time staff so far this year in addition to the 363 already working within the department. The passport service is also set to recruit more than 230 temporary clerical officers this year to assist with the large volume of applications and queries. However, the passport division of the Irish embassy in London warned earlier this year that it was “stretched and working under pressue” without “sufficient” staff numbers.