Recently there have been several occasions where people who had booked appointments in advance to pick up documents from Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) service offices have nonetheless had to wait for an hour or more to be served. While the PPA confirmed that such long waits are the exception, wait times have nonetheless grown since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began.
"Your document is ready and wants to go home quickly! In order to pick up your document in just minutes, book an appointment ahead of time..." reads the email sent to applicants by the PPA once their applied-for passport, ID card or other document is ready for pickup.
On the evening of April 14, however, those who had booked appointments ahead of time for document pickup at the PPA's P. Pinna tänav service office in Tallinn nonetheless had to wait in line for more than an hour, and at 7 p.m., the office was still packed.
Annika Pärna, chief expert at the PPA's Identity and Status Bureau, told ERR that such a long wait was not the norm in the case of booked appointments, and in this case was the result of technical issues with the office's queue management system. She confirmed that these technical issues had since been resolved.
"One factor is also the fact that reserve officials had stepped in to help with the issuing of documents whose daily jobs are in other lines of work," Pärna. "Understandably, some processes thus took a little longer than it takes for already experienced PPA service officials."
According to the official, wait times for first come, first served lines, i.e. those without appointments, likewise increased because following the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion on February 24, increasing numbers of people in Estonia began applying for documents, which in turn were waiting to be issued, but these have since been joined by documents waiting to be issued to war refugees in Estonia.
In January, those who had booked appointments in advance to pick up documents had to wait an average of three minutes to be called; those without appointments, 18. By April, these wait times had increased to eight and 26 minutes, respectively.
When applying for documents, those with appointments had to wait an average of five minutes in January, and eight minutes in April. Wait times for applicants without appointments, however, stretched from an average of 31 minutes in January to 55 minutes in April.
Actual wait times, however, will vary depending on location, as lines are longer in Tallinn and Tartu, for example, but also in smaller cities including Rakvere and Viljandi.
Various service offices also differ in their practices during extended hours as well: in Tallinn, you can only pick up documents during extended hours by appointment, in Tartu either by appointment or in a first come, first serve line, and in the East Prefecture only on a first come, first serve basis.
The PPA's two Tallinn service offices will be open through 7 p.m. through the end of the current workweek, and Pärna said that more appointment times have been added to their system. Tartu's service office is open through 6 p.m. The PPA will decide on a running basis whether or not to continue offering extended evening hours at their service offices.
A total of 2,643 Estonian passports expire in April, but another 3,600 each are set to expire in May and June. More than 18,000 people's Estonian ID cards expire next month, however, and another 20,000 and 23,000 expire in June and July, respectively, as well. Several thousand people a month also have to renew their permanent resident cards.
"According to forecasts, document application volumes will surely grow over the summer months," the PPA official said.
The number of documents to expire in the second half of the year is somewhat smaller.
The PPA began offering extended hours of operation at its service offices this month, including evening and weekend hours, to help reduce the backlog of documents waiting to be issued.
Editor: Aili Vahtla