Need a Last Minute Passport Appointment? You cannot make an online reservation.

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People who need to renew their passports immediately will not be allowed to book last-minute appointments online, the US Department of State announced on Thursday.

These last-minute appointments for people with urgent travel needs can now only be scheduled by phone, the ministry said.

The reason for the change? The department aims to solve “the problem of third parties using bots to book all available appointments and then sell them to applicants with urgent travel needs.” a statement posted on the website. Some appointments sold by third parties cost up to $300. USA Today reported.

The department said the change was “temporary,” but did not specify when these appointments could resume online.

Appointments can be made by calling the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 10 pm Eastern Standard Time. “Wait times to reach a customer service representative can be long,” the department said on its website. “Last-minute in-person appointments are still extremely limited.”

Last-minute appointments are often limited to people who need to travel for life-or-death emergencies, State Department officials said earlier this month. The ministry said Americans seeking passports for non-essential travel are given “very limited appointments” and must show documents showing that their trip is within 72 hours.

Thursday’s announcement comes nearly 16 months after the pandemic lockdown restrictions began to force many people into it. to leave suddenly their travel plans.

The outbreak also caused the State Department to significantly reduce passport operations in March 2020 to protect its staff from contracting Covid-19, the ministry said. This has caused hundreds of thousands of American passports to expire.

Now, as travel restrictions ease in Europe, Canada and elsewhere, some of these passports still need to be renewed. And government officials are still working accumulation.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that the department is increasing the number of workers handling passport backlogs. “We are doing everything we can and will continue to look for ways we can search and expedite passport processing.”

Routine passport service by mail can take up to 18 weeks, according to the ministry’s website. (According to the site, this includes up to 12 weeks of “processing” and up to six weeks of mailing.) Before the pandemic, this service can take six to eight weeks.

The expedited passport service, which cost an additional $60, can now take up to 12 weeks, compared to a few days to three weeks before the pandemic. The same-day expedited passport costs $170, with an additional $35 for first-time applicants.

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