Irish living in Australia, Canada, NZ, US can now apply for passports online

‘Timely expansion’ of service part of ongoing reform of entire processing passport system

The online service was launched in March 2017 and expanded in November 2018 to include renewal of children’s passports and a larger cohort of adults.  File photograph

The online service was launched in March 2017 and expanded in November 2018 to include renewal of children’s passports and a larger cohort of adults. File photograph

 

Irish citizens living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States can from Monday apply for their first Irish passport using the State’s online passport system, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney announced on Monday morning the “timely expansion” of the passport online service as part of the ongoing reform of the passport processing system.

Irish citizens living in the Republic, Northern Ireland, Britain and European countries who are applying for their first Irish passport have been able to use the online system since November 2019. They will now be joined by citizens from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US.

The online service was launched in March 2017 and expanded in November 2018 to include renewal of children’s passports and a larger cohort of adults.

A statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs noted that renewing a passport using the online facilities was “four times” faster than a paper application and that “simple adult renewals continue to have a ten day turnaround time”. Renewing a passport online is also cheaper, it noted.

Mr Coveney said the passport reform programme was delivering “major upgrades to passport service technology platforms” and improving the customer service element.

“A strong take-up of Passport Online will greatly improve the capacity of the Passport Service to manage application volumes,” Mr Coveney said. “Efficiencies in the online system mean that staff resources can be redeployed towards the processing of more complex applications, protecting the integrity of the Irish passport and enhancing the customer service we offer to citizens.”

Backlog

In February, the Passport Service “paused” the processing of routine applications because of the Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions that were in place at the time and only continued to deal with emergency and essential cases.

A backlog of some 89,000 applications built up by the end of April 2021 although the service still processed nearly 40,000 applications during the winter and spring restrictions. The Cabinet approved a proposal in late April by Mr Coveney that the service be considered essential. This resulted in an increase in staff attendance in passport offices and by May, the service’s 450 staff fully returned to office-based work.

The director of Passport Services told The Irish Times last month that 40 per cent of this backlog had been cleared but also warned that it was preparing for a record number of applications next year after the steep decline in overseas travel during the pandemic. Siobhán Byrne said there would be “more demand next year than ever before” with thousands of people keen to starting travelling as soon as possible.

There were fewer than 10,000 applications in January and February, but the figure increased to about 40,000 in April and about 60,000 in May, a month that in normal times would usually see just over 100,000 applications.