Passport backlog: Americans face months-long delays as State Department deals with flood of applications – Fresno, California

Fresno, California 2021-07-15 09:06:18 –

New York-American travelers who do not currently have a valid U.S. passport have to wait because the Department of State is processing the outstanding portion of over one million applications caused primarily by the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the length of time, you may not be able to travel abroad this summer. State Department officials said Wednesday.

“Currently, the waiting time for both new and renewal regular passport applications is up to 18 weeks, which includes processing time, initial internal capture of the application, and mailing,” said Rachel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Passport Services.・ Arnto told reporters. talking. She said the priority passport (which costs $ 60) can wait up to 12 weeks.

“This means that people who submit new passport applications now will not be able to get a new passport until the fall,” she said, “last-minute passport reservations are very limited. “.

“US citizens who wish to travel abroad this summer and don’t currently have a passport may need to make another travel plan,” she said.

Arndt said the unprocessed portion of passport applications “currently ranges from 1 to 2 million.”

“It’s somewhat higher than what we usually see, but it’s because travelers have increased the availability of vaccinations and the workload has begun to come in faster than we usually see. “She said. ..

Arndt said that many of the current problems with passport processing are due to the coronavirus pandemic: “The pandemic confusion continues to have a spillover effect on every step of the passport process, including the current time it takes to process a passport application. “”

“More than 150 staff will return to 21 institutions nationwide, which will improve our ability to process applications more quickly,” the State Department said. “The number of pre-pandemic staff levels and additional staff surges. We are considering that. Staff for both government and contractor staff. “

Arndt said the staff had returned to passport centers in 17 cities, “there are five more and we expect all staff to return to the office and get approval to move to be fully open.” I did.

“Passport professionals need to be physically present in the office to process their passports,” Arndt said. “They are not processing remotely or from home. What we have for the publishing process currently requires a connection to a system and database that is only accessible from within our facility.”

“And, of course, the physical printing and mailing of passport books and cards comes from our facility,” she added.

Fraud warning

Arndt warned of a scam to sell passport reservations online: “If the Department of State receives a payment request to schedule a US passport reservation, the State Department will urgently at one of our agencies or centers. We do not charge just to book a reservation. It should be considered a scam. “

“Also, this department is not affiliated with a third party booking service and there are many examples of forged bookings through these vendors. Unfortunately, we may not be able to respect your bookings. Through the three parties, we are aware of the situation and are trying to correct it. “

On Monday, Congressman Gregory Meeks and Michael McCaul, chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, addressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the State Department’s “priority efforts to reduce passport application processing time.” Said. The current wait time is “much beyond the normal processing time before the COVID-19 global pandemic began.”

By Friday, the Democrats of New York and the Republicans of Texas will have a strategy to reduce processing time, an estimated time frame to return to pre-pandemic wait times, and additional resources from Congress or what authorities may need to address. I asked the department to provide an answer. problem. “We are confident that we have received the letter and will respond promptly,” Arnto told reporters.

Passport backlog: Americans face months-long delays as State Department deals with flood of applications Source link Passport backlog: Americans face months-long delays as State Department deals with flood of applications

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