Passport application process being reviewed after report

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reviewing documentary requirements

Photograph: Alan Betson

Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is currently reviewing documentary requirements for first time passport applicants following a report from the Data Protection Commission on the public services card.

All first-time passport applicants aged 18 and over who are resident in Ireland have to obtain a public services card and present a photocopy of it when applying for their passport.

This requirement also applies to adult applicants whose last passport was issued prior to January 1st, 2005, and has since been reported as lost, stolen or damaged; or those whose last passport expired more than five years ago.

However, in a highly critical report on its investigation into the card, the Data Protection Commission found there was no legal reason to make individuals obtain the card in order to access State services other than social welfare payments and benefits.

The State has been told it must delete data held on 3.2 million citizens, which was gathered as part of the roll-out of the card, as there is no lawful basis for retaining it.

“The Passport Service is aware of the statement from the Data Protection Commission on matters pertaining to the Public Services Cards. We are currently reviewing our documentary requirements for first time applicants,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The Data Protection Commission said on Friday the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will be required to ensure that other public bodies “cannot insist that a person who does not already hold a public services card must obtain one as a pre-condition of accessing public services provided by that body”.

This must be done within a period of 21 days, it said in a statement.

The Data Protection Commission said it had identified a number of measures that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and other public bodies which utilise or rely on the card will now be required to take to bring the scheme “into compliance with data protection legislation”.

“However, recognising the structural nature of the changes that will be needed, the Department will be afforded a period of six weeks to submit an implementation plan to the DPC identifying the changes it will make to the PSC scheme and the time period within which those changes will be made,” it said.

The Data Protection Commission said “under applicable laws”, it is not open to publish its report without the prior agreement of the department.

“The DPC has written to the Department asking it to confirm, within a period of seven days, that it will either publish the report on its own website or, alternatively, that it will agree to the publication of the report on the commission’s website. The department’s response is awaited,” it said.