Did your passport expire during lockdown? It may take a while to replace it

National

NEW YORK – Americans hoping to travel abroad this summer may have to delay their plans if they need new or renewed passports.

The State Department said Wednesday that the wait for a passport is now between 12 and 18 weeks, even if you pay for expedited processing. That’s because of ripple effects from the coronavirus pandemic that caused extreme disruptions to the process at domestic issuance facilities and overseas embassies and consulates.

A department official says a backlog of 1.5 million to 2 million passport requests means that applications submitted now probably will not be processed until the fall.

Rachel Arndt, deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services, said the department is increasing COVID-19-reduced staffing throughout the United States as pandemic restrictions are eased. But she said Americans needing to apply for or renew a passport should do so at least six months ahead of when they plan to travel.

“We really encourage folks to apply for or renew their passport at least six months ahead of when you’ll need one to avoid any of those last-minute problems,” she told reporters.

The State Department and Department of Homeland Security have already taken steps to ease issues related to Americans abroad with expired passports who are seeking to return home.

The departments announced in May that U.S. citizens who are currently overseas and whose passports expired on or after Jan. 1, 2020, would be able to use their documents to reenter the United States until Dec. 31, 2021. That provision does not apply to travel between third countries unless it is a transit stop.

Rep. Kathleen Rice, who represents parts of Long Island, said some companies are trying to profit on hard-to-get passport appointments by blocking off chunks of time and selling appointments. She urged the State Department to crack down on the abusive practice.

In response, a spokesperson for the State Department told WPIX: “We are aware of these issues and are working to prevent them. The Department of State does not charge a fee solely for booking an emergency appointment at one of our agencies or centers. Any request for payment for scheduling a U.S. passport appointment should be considered fraudulent.”

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The best way to get a new or renewed passport, according to the State Department, is to mail-in your form, documents and fee.

For more information about passport fees, try the State Department’s calculator

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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