Interior Ministry Presents Plan to Clear Passport Backlog


An Israeli biometric passport. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

As Israel’s passport crisis continues, with an average wait of nearly six months for an appointment to renew a passport, MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism), chairman of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, held a meeting several weeks ago and asked the Interior Ministry to present a plan to clear the backlog.

According to Globes, the current average waiting time for a new passport is 132 days in the northern region of Israel, 160 days in the southern region and 179 days in the central region. Many Israelis have taken out the far more expensive temporary passports issued at Ben Gurion Airport or in Bnei Brak. It was noted that currently, 15% of all new passports being issued are temporary passports. Dual nationality Israelis can travel abroad using their foreign passports until July 1, 2023.

Interior Ministry Director-General Ronen Peretz presented the plan to the Knesset Interior Committee on Wednesday, which involves staff working overtime. The Interior Ministry’s four major offices will work an extra shift from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with staff being diverted from other services to devote their time to issuing passports. A new center will also be set up by the Population and Immigration Authority dealing only with passport renewals, and production capacity at the factory printing the passports will be increased. The Interior Ministry had considered working three shifts per day but for technical reasons this was not currently possible.

The Interior Ministry has yet to reach agreement with the Ministry of Finance Budget Division over the extra money for the extra hours required or the Histadrut union on the matter.

The current crisis began in the wake of the COVID crisis when Israel’s skies were reopened and a large number of Israelis discovered their passports had expired. The Interior Ministry has been unable to hire extra staff with few candidates available, and the factory that prints passports has been unable to keep up with demand.

Population and Immigration Authority head of data systems Oren Ariav told the Interior Committee that demand for new passports will be further increased by the U.S. visa waiver program, which is set to be implemented shortly, and which will only be available to holders of the newer biometric passports. The moment the waiver program comes into effect there will be a wave of applications for biometric passports.

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