An Important Update Regarding Passports
COVID-19 has significantly impacted the processing times for new passports and renewals. Here’s everything you need to know.
FROM THE US DEPARTMENT OF STATE PASSPORT OFFICE
Due to public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we suspended offering expedited service on March 19, 2020. You should expect significant delays if you applied for or renewed your passport and requested routine service.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our workforce and customers, we significantly reduced passport operations in March 2020. We temporarily suspended expedited passport processing and restricted service to cases involving life-or-death emergencies. This is defined as are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g., parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc.) that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 days). You will be required to provide the necessary documentation including proof of the emergency to qualify.
As global conditions continue to evolve, and as states and health authorities adapt their operational recommendations, the Department looks forward to resuming routine passport processing, while protecting the safety of both our staff and our customers. We are planning to gradually reopen in three phases this summer as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Strong plan, which follows guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for safely reopening. Each passport agency and center will open on a different date based on local conditions.
We continue to experience significant delays in passport processing, as our staff are unable to process applications from home due to strict standards for security and privacy protection for customers. This includes applications by customers who already applied for routine service at passport acceptance facilities or who mailed in renewal applications since March. We ask for your patience as we gradually resume normal operations and address COVID-19 related processing delays.
We are committed to working as hard as we can to process applications as quickly as possible, as soon as it is safe for us to do so.
Currently, passport agencies and centers are only open to assist customers who need a passport in the next 72 hours for a life-or-death emergency. For the health and safety of employees and customers, we are minimizing the amount of time employees and customers spend together in our agencies and centers. We are only issuing passports for emergency situations.
We are working to resume normal operations in phases. Each passport agency and center will open on a different date based on local conditions:
Phase 1: Limited staff return to work, allowing us to resume limited processing of applications we already received. Applications will be processed on a first in, first out basis. We will continue to prioritize services for customers with life-or-death emergencies. Customers must wear cloth face coverings in all common areas, including our lobbies, and observe strict social distancing. During phase one, we will continue to recommend customers wait to submit new or renewal applications as delays will continue.
Phase 2: Most staff will return to work, and will process applications on a first in, first out basis, beginning with the oldest applications. Staff and customers should wear cloth face coverings in all common areas, including our lobbies, and continue to observe social distancing.
Phase 3: All remaining Passport Services staff return to work. We will continue to address applications on a first in, first out basis, focusing on the oldest applications. Staff and customers may wear cloth face coverings in common areas and we will encourage social distancing. We also plan to resume expedited processing in this phase.
WHY PASSPORTS CAN’T BE PROCESSED NOW
Passport applications must be adjudicated in our facilities to protect customers’ personally identifiable information and ensure the integrity of the application process. We maintain the highest standards of security and privacy protection for our customers, and must secure sensitive documents like birth certificates and naturalization certificates in our offices. We must also physically print and mail passport books and cards back to customers from our facilities. We are preparing to have more employees return to our agencies and centers in phases, and will immediately work to finalize pending applications.
EXPECTED PROCESSING TIMES – THE OFFICIAL WORD
Here are the official processing times as of June 2, 2020:
|Routine||Expect significant delays due to COVID-19|
|Expedited at Agency||Life-or-death emergency only within 3 days|
EXPECTED PROCESSING TIMES – WHAT WE’RE HEARING
From this point forward, we are no longer quoting the passport office’s official release. However, Premier Custom Travel has been getting updates from sources in the industry, and here is what they are saying:
We have been told that there are approximately two million passports currently in the system for issue or renewal. When Phase II (mentioned above) begins (on a yet-to-be-determined date) they will begin processing this backlog in the order they were received. Only once those have been completed and they have reached Phase III will they begin with any new applications or renewals.
While there is no official timeline, we are hearing that it could be September before they even start to process new applications and renewals. With this large of a backlog, we’re hearing that it could take between three and six months to receive your passport. Normal processing time is six to eight weeks. We certainly hope these estimates are wrong, but we STRONGLY recommend that customers be prepared for a significant wait when applying for or renewing a passport. Even expedited services (which will return in Phase III) may be impacted and take longer than usual.