Saturday 20 January 2018

Passport Office crisis: Helpline cuts off holidaymakers desperate for passports

It's peak season for passport applications.
It's peak season for passport applications.

Meadhbh McGrath

Following reports that the Passport Office is struggling with a backlog of applications, the helpline is no longer accepting telephone queries from applicants.

Holidaymakers hoping to renew their passports ahead of trips abroad or Euro 2016 may find themselves stuck, as those attempting to reach the phone line service will find their calls are cut off by an automated answering system.

“Due to a high volume of calls, we are unable to answer you at the moment,” the pre-recorded message states.

Callers are advised to check the status of their application online, and, in the case of a travel emergency, to send their full details along with verifiable proof of an emergency to the email address provided.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said tonight: "Due to the high volume of calls at the moment it is unfortunately not possible to respond to all customer queries."

"The passport service has detailed answers to frequently asked questions and information relating to turnaround times on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. There is also an on-line tracking facility to provide information on the status of applications.  If customers need further feedback on the status of applications they can call in person to the passport offices in Dublin or Cork without an appointment."

Additional staffing resources are being allocated to handling customer calls over the coming weeks, the spokesperson said.

"The Twitter service is working well as noted and this provides another option in terms of communication for those customers who use the channel. The focus in terms of staff allocations has been on the processing of passport applications and ensuring that target turnaround times are maintained to the greatest extent."

Read More: Backlog of passport applications sparks fears for fans heading to Euro 2016

Two weeks ago, the department confirmed that 227 temporary clerical workers had been hired to help processing 68,281 passport applications.

At that time, there was a backlog of 13.5pc – 9,217 applications.

“Demand for passports has been very high throughout 2016 and a number of measures have been put in place to address this unexpected surge in demand,” the DFA told the Irish Independent.

“It’s peak season at the moment.”

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