US passport renewal online: Americans complain about long delays - ForumDaily
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Online US Passport Renewal: Americans Complain Long Delays

Panic is growing among travelers. Many say their upcoming trips are in jeopardy because they can't get their passports. If you need a new passport, apply as soon as possible because the situation is dire. Passport officials say things are only going to get worse. More about the problem told the publication ABC7News.

Photo: IStock

"I'm heading to Dublin, Ireland, and this is my first international trip since COVID-19," said CJ Leonard of Roslyn, Maryland.

But her trip almost fell apart.

“I couldn’t get my passport for a long time,” she remarked.

For her departure on March 12, Leonard applied for her passport online on January 22 with expedited service.

“They said the process would take 3-5 weeks,” Leonard said.

But then the processing time changed.

“If you submitted an accelerated application after February 6, it looks like the deadlines have been updated by five to seven weeks,” Leonard explained.

Thereafter online passport renewal program was suspended. A full online rollout of the program, with improvements, is expected later this year.

Meanwhile, when her passport didn't arrive, Leonard tried to get help from the Passport Office.

“I was on standby for about two hours,” she said.

On the subject: Never throw away an old expired passport: when and why this document may be needed

“This is the situation. We have two call centers throughout the country. We have over 1000 phone lines with hundreds of customer service representatives,” explained Andres Rodriguez of the US Passport Services Office. “There are simply more people applying for passports at the beginning of the year.”

The Department of State website states that processing times are eight to eleven weeks for regular service and five to seven weeks for expedited.

But this is not what people who apply for a passport renewal get.

In addition, making an appointment at a passport agency near you is also almost impossible.

“The only offices where you can get to the meeting are in Seattle, Honolulu and San Juan, Puerto Rico,” Rodriguez said.

The Passport Service notes that they are hiring new employees to process all applications.

“We have employees working many hours of overtime,” he stressed.

But the department does not expect the situation to improve in the near future.

“We predict that the crisis will drag on for a long time,” Rodriguez said.

Leonard got her passport just before the trip thanks to her local congresswoman.

She shared a tip on how to shorten the waiting time on the phone: start calling just before 08:00.

A State Department spokesperson answered several questions to clarify the situation:

The people who renewed their passports online are now called "volunteers" who helped test the system. Why was the program suspended and what changes will be made before it becomes available for use again?

“We are committed to the President's executive order to transform federal customer service and delivery of services to restore trust in government.” Delivering on this promise, we have begun testing secure online passport renewal (OPR).

In February 2022, we launched a limited edition OPR for federal government employees and contractors. In August 2022 - expanded the audience to include the public with monthly controlled availability to provide employee training and system testing. Since then, more than 500 customers have successfully applied online. Based on feedback and experience, we continue to make improvements to optimize the user experience with online passport renewals.

True, on February 7, we temporarily closed the online renewal service for new customers. This pause allows us to process existing applications submitted through OPR and continue to improve our customer experience.

People cannot make an appointment at the passport office up to 5 days before their scheduled trip, even if they applied within the expected processing time. What should they do?

“We have procedures in place for those Americans who must travel in last-minute life-or-death emergencies.” This generally applies to travel within three business days because an immediate family member outside the United States has died, is dying, or has a life-threatening illness or injury.

We also have procedures for people who need to make an urgent international trip within 14 calendar days. However, for those who need a passport at the last minute for a holiday trip, you should expect meeting places to fill up quickly. Again, our message to US citizens is to plan ahead to avoid this situation.

Can people who have never had a passport apply online? Or is the online system just for renewal?

— Applicants who wish to obtain, rather than renew, a passport were not eligible to participate in the online passport renewal pilot.

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The State Department website shows current wait times are 8-11 weeks for regular service and 5-7 weeks for expedited service. This is right?

- Everything is correct. Regular passport processing can take eight to eleven weeks, while expedited passport processing can take five to seven weeks and costs $60. This time will increase as the summer tourist season approaches.

We are committed to transparency and will continue to provide regular updates on passport processing times, as well as encourage Americans to apply for a passport well in advance of any scheduled international travel, to save money and avoid last-minute issues or frustrations.

Consumers say they wait longer. What do you say to that?

— Processing time starts from the moment the application is received and does not include delivery time. While we meet processing deadlines in most cases, we understand that some customers who have renewed their passports online are experiencing delays in receiving their completed documents.

We strive to work directly with clients on these issues and will make every effort to issue a passport before an emergency appointment becomes necessary. However, individuals who applied online and have not received their passport should call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 to make an appointment with the passport agency.

Customers who renew their passport online can pay for expedited service or 1-2 day delivery of completed passports. To do this, they need to log into their accounts, click "Manage Application" and pay for these services until their applications are processed.

The vast majority of clients with passports are served on time. However, if an applicant paid the $60 Expedited Service Fee at the time of application submission and did not receive Expedited Service, the applicant may request a refund of the fee. More information about requesting a refund is available on the website.

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