Justin Bullock, FISM News
If you were hoping to travel out of the country following the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions you will be in for a long wait if you do not have an up-to-date passport. This is because the US State Department has revealed that they have an astronomical backlog of initial passport requests and passport renewals. As a result, the State Department has told potential travelers that it will likely be a matter of months before they are able to receive a new or renewed passport.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt told the press on a phone conference,
Currently, our wait time for both new and renewal routine passport applications can be up to 18 weeks, and that includes our processing time, the initial internal intake of the applications, and mailing… This means people who submit new passport applications right now will not get their new passport until well into the fall… last-minute passport appointments are extremely limited… US citizens who wish to travel overseas this summer and do not currently have a passport may need to make alternate travel plans.
According to the State Department, there is a backlog of 1.5 million to 2 million passport requests and that number is rising. The reason for the backlog is that many of the federal employees who were tasked with processing passport requests were either let go or put on leave during the pandemic. Now, the State Department is bringing employees back and attempting to hire as quickly as possible, but the backlog and new requests have thus far outpaced these efforts.
In addition, the State Department is warning Americans against possible scams with regard to passports. As malicious actors have recognized the challenges faced by the State Department as well as the high demand from American travelers, many are establishing fraudulent companies promising to facilitate passport processing. The State Department indicated that Americans should be wary of engaging in any sort of business with passport companies not directly affiliated with the State Department. Deputy Assistant Secretary Arndt warned,
I’d also like to say that the department is not affiliated with any third-party appointment booking services, and we’ve seen numerous instances of falsified appointment bookings through these vendors. And unfortunately, we may not be able to honor appointments booked via third party, so we are aware and are working to try to rectify that situation.
Many Americans are frustrated with the delays. In fact, the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks (D-New York) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), sent a letter to the State Department urging them to prioritize getting the passport system back on track in order to facilitate travel for American citizens.