Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that the Passport Service has received the highest number of monthly applications ever in January of this year.
It comes following calls from local politicians for swift action to tackle the ongoing issue of lengthy processing times for first-time passport applications.
Cork-based TD Colm Burke asked the Minister the total number of passports issued for each month from January 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022, by the number of passport renewals and the number of new passports for each month, through a recent Parliamentary Question (PQ).
In response to Deputy Burke, the Minister said that the Passport Service received the highest volume of monthly applications ever in January of this year, with over 137,000 new passport applications received.
Minister Coveney said that the high volume of applications came as a direct result of the pent-up demand for passports following the relaxation of necessary travel restrictions due to the pandemic and the Passport Service estimates that up to 1.7 million passport applications will be received this year.
In the same month, the total number of passport book renewals issued was 77,333 and the total number of first-time passport books issued was 9,303.
In January 2021, the total number of passport book renewals issued was 6,620 and the total number of first-time passport books issued was just 107.
My Department has been proactively planning to ensure the necessary resources are in place to meet the current and expected level of demand in 2022 and is making an unprecedented investment in the Passport Service in terms of additional staff and improvements to the passport processing and customer service systems.
“My Department is working with the Public Appointments Service on a major recruitment drive that has been underway for several months. Since June of 2021, over 300 members of staff at all grades have been assigned to the Passport Service.
“Additional staff are being assigned on a weekly basis with a goal of reaching staff numbers of 900 by the end of March. This represents a doubling of staff numbers over the course of nine months,” Minister Coveney said.
He said that the core technology underpinning the service will be replaced to deliver efficiencies and a more resilient passport system.
Budget 2022 also included an investment of an additional €10 million in passport services in response to the increasing demand for passports both at home and abroad.
“Passport Online can be accessed by all first-time applicants, irrespective of age, both children and adults, in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. All Irish citizens, including children, can use the online system to renew their passports from anywhere in the world.
“I strongly urge anyone who is considering travelling overseas this year, particularly families with young children, to check the validity of their passports before booking travel and to apply for their passports online in plenty of time,” Minister Coveney said.