Battling backlog, Interior Ministry to open up passport services without appointments

For one month, Israelis will be able to show up to apply for or renew a passport at offices in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Haifa, which will stay open late

Illustrative: Israeli passports in Jerusalem, January 18, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli passports in Jerusalem, January 18, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Interior Minister Moshe Arbel announced Monday that for a period of a month, Israelis will be able to show up at Interior Ministry branches to get or renew a passport without an appointment, in a bid to alleviate a backlog that has created a chronic shortage of appointments.

At a briefing at the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem, Arbel presented a new plan under which no appointment would be necessary at the office’s branches in Jerusalem, Beersheba, Tel Aviv and Haifa from May 14 to June 15 in order to renew passports.

Arbel added that appointments already made will be honored, but those without appointments will also be accepted between 7:30 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In addition, a temporary office is slated to open in Bnei Brak on May 15 that will operate on an appointment basis to grant passports.

For at least a year, various networks of hackers and bots have captured thousands of appointments in the government’s online system and sold them for up to hundreds of dollars, causing a serious lack of availability at Interior Ministry offices.

Those needing to make appointments to renew passports have often been forced to wait four to six months for an opening, especially in larger cities.

Arbel said he hoped the new plan would enable all those who are seeking a passport ahead of the peak summer vacation months to acquire one, but noted that patience would be required.

“There will be long lines, a lot of people will come to the offices — the line could take a few hours, so choose a day that works for you to arrive,” said Arbel at the briefing on Monday.

The current long wait for passport appointments has its roots in the COVID-19 pandemic, during which international travel was severely curtailed and lockdowns limited both the government’s ability to issue new passports and the public’s will to make such appointments.

This created a backlog of an estimated one million passports that need renewal, quickly leading to all available appointments being swamped last year when pandemic restrictions were removed. The issue has been exacerbated by the companies and bots taking advantage of citizens’ desperation and booking up appointments for resale.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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