The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the entire worldwide travel industry. Even if you don’t work in travel, you can still be affected. Not only is it extraordinarily challenging to fly internationally, but if you need government documents to fly, it’s been a long waiting game.
If you’re in the midst of a Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST application, you need to set up an interview at a Trusted Traveler enrollment center. Unfortunately, those have been closed since March and their reopening has just been delayed again.
But what if all you want is a passport? That should be simple, right?
Since March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of State will only offer in-person service at passport agencies or centers, and only for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.
But some people don’t know that, or they’re impatient because they’re supposed to go on a cruise in July, or a wedding in another country in August, or if nothing else they just want their birth certificate back in the interim. So they decide to do something drastic.
You always hear about people suggesting someone “contact their Representative,” but I don’t know if I ever knew anyone who actually did.
Now I do.
Well, sort of. It wasn’t anyone I actually knew – more like a colleague of a colleague of a friend. But this person apparently wanted his/her passport, so they contacted their Congressman. Here’s the reply they got:
Thanks for writing to our office with your concerns about passports. I totally understand and share your frustrations.
I just got off a conference call with the U.S. State Department regarding passports and want to share the information that I obtained on the call.
The Passport Agency plans to open in 3 stages.
Currently, we’re in Phase 1. Only life-or-death emergencies passports are being processed. If you have a life or death emergency, call 1-877-487-2778, After hours: 202-647-4000.
Backlog: 1.6 million applications and growing. An average of 9,000 daily applications.
APPLICANTS WAITING: Significant delays
NEW APPLICANTS : Expect disrupted summer travel plans.
Level 4: Global Health Advisory, no expedited service and no processing time commitment for routine service.
Phase 2 will be limited emergency services as well.
Phase 3 will be normal processing.
There is no time frame for the phases. I hope this information is helpful.
Not really the news anyone wants to get, I’m sure.
Granted, it’s not really “news” if you’ve been keeping an eye on the U.S. Dep’t of State’s website. But those numbers? They have a backlog of 1.6 million passports and are getting an average of 9,000 more per day? With no end of the pandemic in sight. That’s pretty staggering.
Actually, not even. Back in mid-2007, there was a backlog of 2 million passports that had to be addressed. But if (if? Ha!) this pandemic goes on for another 50 days, we’ll blow that 2 million out of the water, easy peasy lemon squeezy. I suspect that when they finally do get to Phase 3, they’re going to have a backlog like no backlog has ever been seen before.
*** Many thanks to Darlene K. for her assistance with this post
#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary