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

NEW YORK — American vacationers who don’t at present have legitimate US passports might not be capable of journey abroad this summer season as a result of intensive wait occasions because the State Division offers with a backlog of greater than 1,000,000 functions induced largely by the coronavirus pandemic, a division official mentioned Wednesday.

“At present, our wait time for each new and renewal routine passport functions may be as much as 18 weeks, and that features our processing time, the preliminary inside consumption of the functions, and mailing,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Providers Rachel Arndt instructed reporters on a name. She mentioned wait occasions for expedited passports — which value a $60 price — are as much as 12 weeks.

“This implies individuals who submit new passport functions proper now won’t get their new passport till properly into the autumn,” she mentioned, noting that “last-minute passport appointments are extraordinarily restricted.”

“US residents who want to journey abroad this summer season and don’t at present have a passport might must make alternate journey plans,” she mentioned.

Arndt mentioned the backlog of passport functions “at present is someplace within the vary of 1,000,000 and a half to 2 million functions.”

“That’s considerably greater than what we’d usually anticipate to see. Nonetheless, that was often because because the vacationers had been ramping up with the vaccinations availability, the workload began coming in quicker than we had — we’d usually see,” she mentioned.

Arndt attributed lots of the present points with passport processing to the coronavirus pandemic, noting that “the pandemic’s disruptions proceed to have a ripple impact on all steps of the passport course of, together with the period of time it at present takes us to course of a passport utility.”

She mentioned that the State Division is “going to have over 150 employees returning to 21 businesses throughout the nation, and that may improve our capability to course of functions extra rapidly” they usually “are surging again to pre-pandemic staffing ranges and extra employees for each authorities and contractor employees.”

Arndt mentioned employees had returned to passport facilities in 17 cities and that, “we’ve a further 5 that we’re anticipating approval to maneuver, to be fully open, with all employees again within the workplace.”

“Passport specialists have to be bodily current within the workplace to course of the passports,” Arndt famous. “They aren’t processing remotely or from dwelling. What we’ve for our issuance course of, we require a connectivity to programs and databases which might be at present solely accessible from inside our services.”

“And, in fact, the bodily printing and mailing of the passport books and playing cards happens from our facility,” she added.

Rip-off warnings

Arndt warned about scams promoting passport appointments on-line, advising that “the Division of State doesn’t cost a price to solely ebook an emergency appointment at certainly one of our businesses or facilities, so if anybody receives a request for fee for scheduling a US passport appointment, that ought to be thought-about fraudulent.”

“I might additionally prefer to say that the division shouldn’t be affiliated with any third-party appointment reserving companies, and we have seen quite a few cases of falsified appointment bookings by means of these distributors. And sadly, we might not be capable of honor appointments booked by way of third occasion, so we’re conscious and are working to attempt to rectify that scenario,” she mentioned.

On Monday, Reps. Gregory Meeks and Michael McCaul — the chairman and rating member of the Home Overseas Affairs Committee — wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking that the State Division “prioritize efforts to cut back processing time for passport functions,” noting that the present wait occasions “go properly past traditional processing occasions previous to the beginning of the COVID-19 international pandemic.”

The New York Democrat and Texas Republican requested the division to offer solutions by Friday about its technique to cut back processing occasions, its estimated timeframe to get again to pre-pandemic wait occasions, and what further sources or authorities from Congress it would want to deal with the problems. Arndt instructed reporters, “I’m sure that we’ve acquired that letter and can reply promptly.”

https://abc7chicago.com/passport-backlog-delays-us-passports-summer-travel/10889029/

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