The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) is seeking clarity for their customers in relation to passport applications and renewals from the Department of Foreign Affairs as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the travel sector. The Passport Office is currently not accepting any applications for passport renewals as public offices and phone lines are closed until further notice. The ITAA are calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs to reopen the passport office with immediate effect.
Passport applications and renewals can still be made through Passport Online and requests will be processed when the service resumes, however the Department of Foreign Affairs has advised against posting supporting documents to Embassies and Consulates at this time. A web chat service will be made available to those who need a passport for travel in a genuine emergency; however it is unclear how long this process will take.
ITAA CEO Pat Dawson said, “The ITAA is asking for clarification from the Department of Foreign Affairs on this issue, because we want to do what is best for our customers during this extremely stressful time. This delay in passport renewals will further hurt our industry, as customers who want to book holidays after the quarantine is lifted will be forced to wait for their passport application to be approved. The system will be overwhelmed by the backlog in passport renewals and applications, and this will drastically slow the recovery of the travel sector both at home and abroad.”
He continued, “Unless a person is considered to be in an emergency situation, their right to leave the country is invalidated should they not be in possession of a valid passport. We have been engaging with the Department on these matters since the beginning of the pandemic in Ireland, and it is vital that these communications continue so that we can keep our customers safe and informed of their options now and over the coming weeks and months.”
The ITAA is asking the Department of Foreign Affairs to issue clear and concise guidelines on travel restrictions for Irish travellers as soon as possible. The Association is also concerned that airlines such as Aer Lingus and Ryanair are planning on operating flights from July 1, in spite of current travel advice issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The ITAA has advised that consumers adhere to the current travel guidelines from the Department, which state that Non-Essential Travel should be avoided until further notice.
The ITAA is also advising consumers to regularly check Department of Foreign Affairs travel advice for updates, and to download the DFA Travelwise smartphone app that provides specific travel health advice for countries.