Passport backlog: Americans face months-long wait as State Dept. deals with flood of applications

1 week ago 5

NEW YORK -- American travelers who bash not presently person valid US passports whitethorn not beryllium capable to question overseas this summertime owed to extended hold times arsenic the State Department deals with a backlog of much than a cardinal applications caused mostly by the coronavirus pandemic, a section authoritative said Wednesday.

"Currently, our hold clip for some caller and renewal regular passport applications tin beryllium up to 18 weeks, and that includes our processing time, the archetypal interior intake of the applications, and mailing," Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt told reporters connected a call. She said hold times for expedited passports -- which outgo a $60 interest -- are up to 12 weeks.

"This means radical who taxable caller passport applications close present volition not get their caller passport until good into the fall," she said, noting that "last-minute passport appointments are highly limited."

"US citizens who privation to question overseas this summertime and bash not presently person a passport whitethorn request to marque alternate question plans," she said.

Arndt said the backlog of passport applications "currently is determination successful the scope of a cardinal and a fractional to 2 cardinal applications."

"That is somewhat higher than what we would usually expect to see. However, that was truly due to the fact that arsenic the travelers were ramping up with the vaccinations availability, the workload started coming successful faster than we had -- we would usually see," she said.

Arndt attributed galore of the existent issues with passport processing to the coronavirus pandemic, noting that "the pandemic's disruptions proceed to person a ripple effect connected each steps of the passport process, including the magnitude of clip it presently takes america to process a passport application."

She said that the State Department is "going to person implicit 150 unit returning to 21 agencies crossed the country, and that volition summation our capableness to process applications much quickly" and they "are looking astatine surging backmost to pre-pandemic staffing levels and further unit for some authorities and contractor staff."

Arndt said unit had returned to passport centers successful 17 cities and that, "we person an further 5 that we are anticipating support to move, to beryllium wholly open, with each unit backmost successful the office."

"Passport specialists request to beryllium physically contiguous successful the bureau to process the passports," Arndt noted. "They are not processing remotely oregon from home. What we person for our issuance process, we necessitate a connectivity to systems and databases that are presently lone accessible from wrong our facilities."

"And, of course, the carnal printing and mailing of the passport books and cards occurs from our facility," she added.

Scam warnings

Arndt warned astir scams selling passport appointments online, advising that "the Department of State does not complaint a interest to solely publication an exigency assignment astatine 1 of our agencies oregon centers, truthful if anyone receives a petition for outgo for scheduling a US passport appointment, that should beryllium considered fraudulent."

"I'd besides similar to accidental that the section is not affiliated with immoderate third-party assignment booking services, and we've seen galore instances of falsified assignment bookings done these vendors. And unfortunately, we whitethorn not beryllium capable to grant appointments booked via 3rd party, truthful we are alert and are moving to effort to rectify that situation," she said.

On Monday, Reps. Gregory Meeks and Michael McCaul -- the president and ranking subordinate of the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking that the State Department "prioritize efforts to trim processing clip for passport applications," noting that the existent hold times "go good beyond accustomed processing times anterior to the commencement of the COVID-19 planetary pandemic."

The New York Democrat and Texas Republican asked the section to supply answers by Friday astir its strategy to trim processing times, its estimated clip framework to get backmost to pre-pandemic hold times, and what further resources oregon authorities from Congress it mightiness request to code the issues. Arndt told reporters, "I americium definite that we person received that missive and volition respond promptly."

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