The Department of Internal Affairs has apologised for the delays in wait times for passports.

“The department understands extended wait times impact our customers and apologises for the inconvenience and stress this can cause.”

Earlier this month, 1News reported the DIA asked Kiwis to apply for a passport 10 weeks before it would be needed.

Delays came after an upgrade to the passport processing system in March. In April, Kiwis were asked to apply two months before they were needed.

The DIA said the upgrade allowed customers to “do more online” and “shore up its passports processing systems”.

“The upgrade has meant significant changes to how staff process passport applications.

“This has resulted in a larger queue in our system, and a sharp increase in the average time it takes for a passport to be issued.”

Plans were underway for the system upgrade to temporarily impact productivity and passport timeframes. However, the effect was sharper and more prolonged than anticipated, according to the DIA.

“This prompted the establishment of a dedicated team to identify and resolve any issues affecting production.

“Reducing wait times is a priority for the department and work to reduce processing times is underway.”

Dedicated team established

Several interventions have been established, including a dedicated team to respond to the situation; tuning of the new system to make it work more efficiently; providing additional support and training for staff across domestic and international sites; and fast-tracking the recruitment of additional front-line staff.

“These interventions and other actions are increasing processing productivity and the difference between applications received and applications processed is improving.”

Many applications were processed promptly. Last week, 56% of applications issued were within 15 working days which was a 7% increase on the previous week. 74% of applications were issued within 30 working days.

Aim to issue passports in two weeks by the end of June

With an added focus on returning to service standards as quickly as possible, the DIA expected to be using the new system with full efficiency within weeks.

“Our aim is to ensure half of all passports are issued within two weeks, and 75% of all passports issued within six weeks, by the end of June.

“By the end of July, we expect to be issuing 75% within two weeks, 90% within four weeks and 95% within six weeks. We are targeting over 90% being issued within two weeks by the end of August.”

The department said it was already seeing some of the benefits of the upgrade which provided better functionality for customers, making it quicker, easier and more convenient for New Zealanders to apply for their passport.

“Over 88% of all passport applications are completed online, and this is expected to grow to 93%.

“One of the biggest improvements is that families or groups of people applying at the same time are now able to do so online. Previously, these groups or whānau would have to use paper forms.

“Now, 32% of all applications have been received as group applications, saving people time when applying as a family or group. Getting a replacement for a lost, stolen or damaged passport has been made easier as customers no longer need to supply their previous passport number, or have to contact the department or submit paper forms for a replacement.

The department noted 2603 replacement passports had already been issued under the new system.

“Over 8000 customers have co-applied for a RealMe verified account, saving them a separate application process, and allowing them to access more services.”