More than 55,000 people around the country are waiting for a passport with a large number of applicants being asked for further information, according to new figures.
It comes as a new system has been put in place to speed up the verification of passport forms where it involves checking a garda’s signature. In response to a parliamentary question from Labour TD Seán Sherlock, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said in cases where the garda signature cannot be verified by calling the Garda station, a new system has been established between the Passport Service and An Garda Síochána to verify these applications.
Some passport applications for applicants resident in Ireland require forms to be witnessed by a member of An Garda Síochána.
“A daily list of an average of 15 applications is sent from the Passport Service to An Garda Síochána, who undertake to verify the witnessed forms. This new system assists in reducing the number of applications that are delayed due to a failure to verify witness details. The Passport Service and An Garda Síochána are keeping the system under review to ensure that it continues to operate effectively.
“The witnessing of these forms is a vital element of the identity verification process for the Passport Service, as it provides initial assurance that the person in the photograph is the same person presenting to submit the passport application form. In the case of children’s applications, it ensures that the consent of guardians is verified.
“Garda stations maintain logs of these witnessed forms for verification purposes. For each application involving a garda witness, the Passport Service calls the relevant Garda station to confirm that the garda witness recorded the witnessed form in the station logbook. Passport Service staff will call the relevant Garda station up to three times to verify the garda’s signature,” the Minister said.
Separate figures issued to Mr Sherlock show there are 55,000 outstanding passport applications across the country.
Mr Sherlock said that while it is welcome that there is a new system of checks in place, “a more immediate option would have been a direct line for gardaí to verify passports with passport checkers”.
“There is huge pressure on the Passport Office at the moment to turn around passports and there are especially delays with first-time passports for children. Another machine, based in the Cork office, would take the pressure off the Dublin machines and be able to service not just Cork but the wider Munster and southern area of the country. It would also allow for collections of passports to recommence in the Cork office for urgent situations.”