Do You Need to Renew Your Passport? Good luck.


When Americans finally begin to take the long-awaited vacation, a surprising number of them realize that before they can go abroad, they must take a different trip: to the U.S. Passport Admissions Office.

During The most comprehensive travel shutdown in modern history, hundreds of thousands of Americans have allowed their passports to expire. Others are only now seeing their documents expire soon. However, despite the State Department’s progress Huge accumulation of passport applications Accumulating in the first months of the pandemic, appointments at passport agencies across the country are still difficult and processing time for mail-in renewal is delayed by 10 weeks or more. Boredom forces many Americans who urgently need their travel documents to travel significant distances—sometimes even across the country—for a face-to-face appointment that will ensure their documents are processed on time.

Ben Williams, an office manager at an Atlanta law firm, is one of them. In April, while Mr. Williams was looking forward to a trip to the Dominican Republic with his girlfriend in early June, he realized that his passport was about to expire. He mailed it for renewal and paid for expedited processing, which could take up to three weeks before the pandemic. Five weeks later, while she was still processing her passport and her trip was approaching, she began searching the internet for an appointment with one of the 26 State Department officials. passport centers and passport agencies, can personally renew and receive the document within one day. It was much more difficult than he thought.

“I’ve been told they’re posting new appointments at midnight, so I’ll be on standby at 11:55 every night and refresh my browser,” said Mr Williams. He also called Congressional Republican Representative Buddy Carter every day during lunch break to ask if the official could help. He was told that he had 50 passport inquiries in front of him.

As a last resort, Mr Williams Facebook group For Americans struggling with visa and passport issues, a band member offered him a date in Chicago where he no longer needed them. On June 4, three days before his scheduled trip, he took a day off from work, spending $400 on a plane ticket from Atlanta and another $120 on Uber rides. He arrived at the Chicago passport agency on time and received his passport the same day.

“I tried to stay calm about this because the Covid-19 crisis has given me the opportunity to realize that there are indeed many people who are worse off than I am,” said Mr Williams. “But there were moments of disappointment. I felt like I was doing the right things and contacting the appropriate people. I was like, ‘How do other people get dates?’ I said.

State Department officials will not elaborate on the number of Americans currently struggling to renew their passports or process new documents, but in a statement, after significantly reducing passport operations in March 2020 to protect their staff from contracting Covid-19, a limited number of passport agencies – the only option for last-minute documents – usually limited to life-or-death emergencies. Americans seeking passports for non-essential travel are offered “very limited appointments” and are required to show documentation that their trip is within 72 hours.

While routine passport service by mail can now take up to 18 weeks compared to six to eight weeks before the pandemic, according to the State Department, the expedited service that cost an additional $60 and lasted a few days to three weeks before Covid-19 could now take up to 12 weeks.

“What is happening right now is something I have never seen in my life,” its founder, David Alwadish, said. ItsEasy Passport and Visaan accelerator service. Mr Alwadish said estimated 100,000 Americans abroad The number of Americans facing passport problems due to the closure of consulates around the world earlier this year is likely much higher than those unable to travel because they were unable to obtain documents at home.

“It is very sad that someone dies or is very sick,” said Mr. Alwadish.

Americans requesting passports faster than current processing times allow must show proof of recent travel within 72 hours of their appointment. But Rick Grobart, who runs a management consulting firm in Chicago, said many have found a way around that restriction. He flew from Chicago to Seattle to renew his own passport in April and made a 9:30 midnight appointment the next morning. He took a seat on the first morning flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and made it to his appointment thanks to the two-hour time difference in Seattle.

Mr. Grobart made the appointment three days before a scheduled departure to Mexico, which he considered extremely lucky. Other passengers said they were willing to raise the additional costs if their timing wasn’t so random. “It’s insane to show proof of travel in three days, because what are the odds of getting in line?” said. “In the end, you buy fake tickets to the cheapest place outside the country you can find and attribute that to the cost of doing business.”

Like Mr Williams in Atlanta, thousands of Americans trying to secure their passports reach out to congressional representatives for help, with mixed success.

Brittanie Dillard, 36, a car salesman in Pensacola, Fla., was overjoyed in April when her boyfriend surprised her with tickets to Costa Rica, but she ran into a major problem: She didn’t have a passport, something she had never told him before. boyfriend. As a member of Representative Matt Gaetz and Senator Marco Rubio, he contacted both bureaus of Republican lawmakers for assistance. A social worker from Senator Rubio’s office was able to set up an appointment for him – but that appointment was in Miami, 9.5 hours’ drive away.

He drove all night to get there and slept in Airbnb for a few hours before picking up his documents and heading back to the road. He estimates the trip cost $500 and a day off from work.

“As a tax-paying citizen, I believe it is my right to have my passport and be able to freely enter and leave the country,” Ms Dillard said. “The rest of the country is not open anyway, senators have other things to do than help us get our passports.”

Representative Mark DeSaulnier, a Democrat from California, told his office that requests for help with passport issues have doubled.

“A perfect storm,” he said. “People are worried about traveling as they come out of Covid and then agencies are running short.”

Representative Frederica S. Wilson, a Democrat from Florida, is also seeing an increase. “My office is experiencing a significant increase in passport requests from residents inside and outside the district I represent,” he said in an email. “Regions complain that it’s nearly impossible to reach anyone or make an appointment by phone.”

To alleviate the crush, the State Department made a limited number of statements. passport acceptance fairs nationwide, but mostly for children and first-time passport applicants, and they do not offer rush services.

However, until the State Department meets the request, Americans who need a passport in less than four weeks have limited options and can also expect to pay extra. The same-day expedited passport costs $170, with an additional $35 for first-time applicants. This does not take into account flight tickets, car rentals or hotel reservations required for travelers for their appointment.

“I’m lucky that the $500 I spent wasn’t a crippling figure,” said Mr Grobart, the consultant who flew from Chicago to Seattle. “But I know that the same $500 could mean a lot more to someone else.”

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