The Department of Foreign Affairs must acknowledge that there “clearly is a backlog” with passport applications, according to Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers.
It is believed almost 200,000 people are waiting for their passport applications to be processed with the department warning that the delays are being caused by people failing to fill out application forms correctly.
A spokesperson for the department said it is dealing with an “unprecedented volume of applications” but insisted they are still being processed as normal.
“While the Passport Service is experiencing a very high volume of applications, they are all being processed in the usual way, with a continuous stream of new applications and a continuous dispatch of completed passports happening every day,” she said.
While passport renewals are generally being processed in two to ten days, the delays relate to first-time passport applications.
A department spokesperson told Newstalk that these are currently taking 30 days to process; however, many applicants have experienced far longer waiting times.
On The Pat Kenny Show, Senator Lisa Chambers said it took nearly four months to process a first-time passport for her two-year-old child Louis.
“We have to acknowledge that there clearly is a backlog,” she said. “It’s not just me saying it. It’s not just parents and other families saying it. This is coming up in the both the Seanad and the Dáil on almost a weekly basis, so there is an issue.
“If the passport office has been told that it’s reasonable to wait three months for a children’s passport maybe that is the issue. We need to bring down those wait times and probably generate more public awareness around how long it does take for a children’s passport.
“People are entitled to these documents. They pay very well for them and there should be a better service.”
The department spokesperson said waiting times for first-time passports have been reduced by 25% since March and the Passport Service is determined to reduce those times further in the coming weeks.
She said around four-in-ten applications in the system have not been completed correctly, which is a “major cause” of delays.
Senator Chambers said she was told at the start of her application that it would take at least three months to get the passport.
“That’s not really acceptable.
“If you’re renewing your passport as an adult and you do it online, it is incredibly fast. It is a super service. You can have your passport back within two days, which is quite normal.
“But if it’s a first-time children’s passport … it is taking months to process. If you’re unlucky enough to submit a photograph that doesn’t meet their requirements, they send it back to you and you're almost at the back of the queue again and your deadline or the date you were given just evaporates. You’re given a new date and families are missing holidays.
“You know, it is not a luxury to get a passport. They’re not doing you a favour. You are entitled as a citizen, whether you are a baby or a child or an adult, to get this passport – and you pay well for it.
“So, the service should be better.”
The Department said the Passport Service is continuing to recruit new staff members and is on track to increase its team to over 900 workers in the coming months – a doubling of staff numbers since last summer.
It said online renewals take up to ten working days – with 45% processed withing one to two days.
Online renewals are consistently up to four times faster than paper-based applications.
You can apply online at dfa.ie/passportonline.
You can listen back to Senator Chambers here: