The Department of Foreign Affairs is preparing for 300,000 additional applications for Irish passports this year – an increase of more than one-third – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Passport offices are bracing themselves for another surge in applications should the UK crash out of the EU without a deal, as UK citizens eligible for Irish passports and Northern Irish residents apply or maintain their EU citizenship post-Brexit with an Irish passport.
As part of its no-deal contingency planning, the department is projecting another potential massive increase in applications on top of the 800,000 first-time and renewed passport applications expected this year.
The Passport Service has already received more than 80,000 passport applications in the first three weeks of this month, representing an increase of 30 per cent on the same period last year.
The majority of the applications were renewals which, the department said, showed that people were “planning early, in advance of travel” and responding to a promotional campaign running since last month.
At less than 60 days until the UK is due to leave the EU, demand for passports has caused post offices in Northern Ireland to run out of forms.
The department sent a fresh batch of application forms to Northern Ireland on Tuesday after former lord mayor of Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile tweeted a photograph on Monday of a post office public notice in Northern Ireland telling customers that they had no more Irish passport application forms in stock.
The post office notice said it had been told “it may be the end of February before we receive new stock”.
The department said more than 70 post offices in Northern Ireland would be restocked with application forms by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.
First-time applications submitted in Northern Ireland take 30 working days. Renewal applications in Britain are processed in 22 working days, while first-time applications take 45 working days.
The Government has already experienced a surge in Irish passport applications since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 and applications have increased as Brexit day, on March 29th, edges closer.
New records were set in 2018 when the Passport Service received 855,283 passport applications. More than one-fifth came from the UK. The number of applications received from Britain increased by 22 per cent.
The department has increased staff numbers at the service to prepare for the increased Brexit-related workload. The number of permanent staff at the Passport Service has increased by 20 per cent in the past 12 months and approval has been granted for 230 temporary clerical offices across the three passport offices.