Police reminder: Identity card can be used for travelling
Licence services at police stations are still backlogged, but the situation with passport applications has improved. Moreover, the number of valid identity cards has increased by almost 500,000 from the pre-pandemic time.
“A record number of passports and identity cards has been granted in the past few months,” says Hanna Piipponen, Senior Officer, Licence Administration at the National Police Board.
The number of people holding a valid passport, identity card or both has increased by around 45,000 in one month.
“At this rate, the pre-pandemic level in the coverage of official identity documents will be reached in early July. In practice, we will also know at that stage how many people have chosen an identity card instead of a passport, or whether they have decided to get both.”
Identity card entitles to entry to EU countries
According to Piipponen, the surge in the number of passport applications has not begun to slow down yet, regardless of the wide coverage of identity documents, which means that people have not opted for only an identity card on a broad scale.
Hanna Piipponen points out that an identity card is a valid travel document for EU countries and a few other European countries as well. If the summer holiday destination is in Europe, identity cards can very well be used for travel to all EU countries, the Nordic countries, Switzerland, San Marino and Liechtenstein.
“I recommend checking whether that could be an option for this year’s summer holiday trip,” says Piipponen.
Processing times are reasonable
Even though there is a backlog in the appointments with licence services, the processing times by the authorities have remained reasonable. At present, the delivery time for passports is 12 days after the appointment.
“So there is no need to panic if your passport is due for renewal late this year or early next year. While the backlog continues, it is not recommended to queue for a new passport much in advance. The police still promises to deliver passports within 12 days, and there is no reason in sight to prolong that time much,” Piipponen says.
Wait times vary across Finland
Unfortunately, the number of appointments available still does not meet the demand. Available times get booked very quickly, even though new times become available frequently. A walk-in appointment with police licence services is also an option if no appointment by booking is available at a suitable time.
“The wait times vary greatly across Finland and even on the same day, the variation may extend from minutes to hours. In the capital region and in the largest cities like Turku, Tampere and Oulu, the queues may be very long, up to several hours occasionally. The start of the summer holiday season has increased the number of customers at least in the first week.”
Police departments have prioritised tasks
Hanna Piipponen says that police departments have prioritised tasks by adding more staff to process travel documents.
“Additional resources have been allocated to police departments to recruit temporary staff. The recruitments are almost done and the new employees can get to work during the summer holiday season,” Piipponen says.
Staff from other duties have also been trained to process travel documents
Opening hours have been prolonged and extra service is provided on weekends. For example, since November, Helsinki Police Department has offered services by appointment almost every weekend, on both Saturday and Sunday.
Where possible, more customer service desks have been added. The appointment system has also undergone technical improvements based on the development requests received from police departments.