Published on May 24th, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
Minister outlines important changes in relation to the issuing of an Irish passport
Speaking in the Dáil on 19th May, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan, took the opportunity to outline a new and significant change for first-time passport applicants, who are resident in Ireland and who are over 18 years of age. Since 29th March 2016 such applicants are required to hold a valid Public Services Card (PSC). Although this new requirement was announced by the Department on 10th March, and was extensively publicised, the Minister wishes to avail of any and every opportunity to highlight this new measure, and Flying in Ireland is only too happy to assist in this regard. The Department notes that in addition to notices in the Passport Offices In Dublin and Cork and in Department of Social Protection offices, information notices were also circulated to all Garda stations. In addition the Department’s website advises first time applicants of the requirement for this card and answers other frequently asked questions.
The decision to use the public services card as a key step in establishing the identity of adults applying for a passport for the first time was the Minister said “in line with a Government decision of July 2005 which approved, in principle, the use of the public services card for identity verification by all public bodies”. He went on “this new requirement also applies to the small number of adult applicants whose last passport was issued before 1st January 2005 and which is reported as lost, stolen or damaged. The measure is an important step in the fight against fraud and identity theft, and in our overall efforts to protect the integrity of the Irish passport”. “It will ensure the identity of first-time applicants for Irish passports is further verified to a high standard” he added.
The Irish Passport Office, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as its parent Department, are committed to ongoing reform and innovation to enhance and protect the integrity of the Irish passport booklet. It is widely recognised as being one of the most secure in the world. Protecting its reputation and, in the broad sense, protecting Irish citizens, requires ongoing reform to guard against passport fraud and identity theft. This is particularly true in today’s modern world, where criminals are highly mobile and their criminal empires can straddle national borders. There is a duty and an obligation on the State to guard against passport fraud, identity theft and ensure the measures we have in place are appropriate and effective.
The public services card is used increasingly as an efficient and secure means to access Government services, including social welfare services, and for the purposes of free travel. Already more than 1.8 million public services cards are in circulation. The new requirement to hold a valid public services card dispenses with previous photo identification requirements for passport purposes such as a certified copy of a driving licence or college identification. It also dispenses with the requirement for proof of name.
Where a person does not have a public services card and falls into the category of people requiring one for passport purposes, he or she can apply for the card through a secure process of face-to-face registration at the offices of the Department of Social Protection. There, customers will be required to produce relevant documents to complete the public services card registration. An online appointment booking service is available at https://www.mywelfare.ie/Account/Login. The new measure applies only to first time adult applicants and in cases of passports issued before 1st January 2005 which are lost, stolen or damaged. It does not apply in the case of applications for renewals of passports or to applications for children.
The processing time for first time passport applications is sufficient to allow the applicant who is not already in possession of a PSC to obtain a card through the Department of Social Protection registration system prior to the approval of their passport application.
If travel is required at short notice for urgent reasons, the Passport Service and the Department of Social Protection will make every effort to expedite the PSC registration process to allow the passport to issue and procedures are in place to facilitate this. In cases where this does not prove possible, the Passport Service will consider each application on its merits and will take extenuating circumstances into account.
Turnaround time for passports
Earlier Minister Flanagan highlighted a number of important messages about applying for passports. Turnaround time for passports can vary depending on seasonal and other factors. The Passport Service has experienced a 15% increase approximately in applications so far this year over 2015 and demand is expected to remain very high in the coming months. Among the reasons are a projected significant increase in outbound travel from Ireland.
There are a number of ways of submitting your passport application and each of these services have different turnaround times. Passport Express through the An Post office network is the most convenient and cost effective method for applicants who wish to renew a passport and whose departure date is more than 15 working days away. It should be noted that the turnaround time of 15 working days for the An Post Passport Express service is a target issue date, and not a stated guarantee and it is considered best practice to allow at least six weeks for passport applications. However as of 19th May, the turnaround time for applications through Passport Express was 14/15 working days in line with its target.
Applicants travelling in less than 15 workings days should use the Passport Office website to make an appointment online to submit their application in person through the Passport Office in Dublin or Cork. In this regard it should be noted that the Passport Office in Dublin has moved. Its new address is as follows:-
Passport Office Knockmaun House, 42-47, Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2, D02 TN83
It should be noted that the Online Passport tracking service is updated 3 times a day. Once an application has moved along the production line, it will show an updated status.
The Passport Office also introduced a same-day rapid renewal service in 2014. This facilitates customers who have urgent, emergency travel needs. This service is only available for renewal applications and is offered in the Passport Office Dublin. The printing of passports requires specialised production equipment with highly specialised machinery, auxiliary equipment and a temperature-controlled environment. which is not available in Cork. The production equipment and suites need continual engineering support and trained staff to manage the sites. The purchase cost of a new passport printing machine alone would cost in excess of €1.5 million. Therefore a same-day service cannot be offered through that office. However every effort is made by the Passport Service to meet a travel date in cases of genuine urgency. Beyond the rapid renewal service, the passport service offers a three working days service in both the Dublin and Cork Passport Offices.
It is particularly important to keep an eye on the validity for children’s passports given that it is shorter than for adults and can vary in length of validity. For first time applications, prospective travellers should allow at least six weeks for the passport to be processed due to the additional security measures pertaining to first time applications. It is essential that passport applications are properly completed and any support documentation replied is included. “There is a huge amount of information available on the Passport Office website and on its Twitter account and I would urge the public to consult my Department’s website for information on passports and for travel advice.” Other points to note are:-
- check the validity of passports before booking a holiday,
- choose the most appropriate application channel depending on the date of travel,
- if travelling in three weeks or less an appointment for the Passport Office in Dublin or Cork should be made online at www.passportappointments.ie.
Throughout this year the demand for passports has been exceptionally high. From 1st January to 13st May the Passport Service has received a total of 314,585 applications for passport books and 9,475 for passport cards. This 15% surge in applications is putting major pressure on the Passport Office and mitigating steps have been taken to address the anticipated increase over the summer season. The Passport Service has recruited Temporary Clerical Officers who will work a total of 5,122 weeks this year. Additional Temporary Clerical Officers will be recruited shortly for a total of 780 weeks to manage the significant increase in phone calls and customer queries over the remaining peak period to August. In view of the sustained increase in applications over last year processing work has been redistributed across passport offices in recent months and staff re-deployed from other areas of the Department as needed to respond to the increased workload. The number of applications received from outside the state for the first quarter of 2015 was 43,369 and it is 49,397 over the same period in 2016. This represents an increase of almost 14% which is in line with the broader growth in demand.
Passport applications and single parent families
The Passports Act, 2008 (the Act) requires that each person who is a guardian of a child must provide his/her consent to the issue of a passport to his/her child. In the vast majority of cases the witnessed consent of parents or legal guardians is given on the application form. This record is sufficient to meet the consent requirements of the Act. However, there are cases where only one guardian provides his/her witnessed consent on the application form. The circumstances are not always clear from the details of a passport application. The reasons generally relate to a breakup of the relationship of parents, the death of a parent/guardian or the absence of the father’s details on a child’s birth certificate. Timing can be important in terms of ensuring that the consent aspect of an application is fully compliant with the Act. For instance in the case where a birth certificate is submitted without the father’s details the conclusion might be that the mother is the child’s sole guardian. However, it could be the case for example that the father has acquired guardianship in the period between the registration of a child’s birth and the date of a passport application.
Similarly, the circumstances under which a previous passport was issued to a child on the basis of the sole consent of one parent/guardian may have changed by the time that the passport is due to be renewed. For instance a court order may have been obtained by another family member, such as a grandparent, that determines that this person is also a guardian of that child.
In order to fulfil the legal obligations under the Act in the context of a wide range of family circumstances, the Department requires sole guardians to complete a pro-forma affidavit to accompany each passport application. This is a legal declaration on the part of the sole parent/guardian in which s/he attests –
- to being the child’s sole guardian;
- that there is no Court Order giving the other parent or another person guardianship of the child;
- to not entering an arrangement or agreement which has the effect of making or purporting to make the other parent or another person a guardian of the child;
- that no other person is a guardian by operation of law: and
- that no other circumstances exist whereby there is a guardian.
It is acknowledged by the Department that some additional costs may be incurred by the witnessing parent/guardian in having this affidavit completed and sworn. However the submission of the affidavit with an application form ensures that the terms of the Act in relation to consent are complied with; that the right of each guardian is protected as far as possible and that the risk of child abduction is reduced. The Department has no plans to review this policy at present.
Finally Irish Passports represent good value
In relation to passport fees, while a decision was taken in the 2005 budget to exempt applicants aged 65 and over from the passport fee, in 2011 the Government decided in light of the budgetary situation to discontinue the exemption and to apply the same ten-year passport fee to all applicants aged 18 years or over.
The annualised fee for a standard ten year Irish passport compares favourably with many other jurisdictions. At €8 per year, the Irish passport fee compares with approximately €9.60 for a French passport, €9.30 per year for a British passport, €9.80 per year for an American passport and €17 per year for an Australian passport.