When you fill out an application for a U.S. passport, you might have to wait as long as 13 weeks before you get it. That could be a major obstacle to any trips you have planned sooner. It's the result of a post-pandemic surge in travelers clogging up the system. There are currently about 2.4 million, but new legislation aims to fix the problem.
"Post COVID, this is something that we've been experiencing," said Erin Brim, chief deputy clerk and recorder for Adams County.
The Adams County Clerk & Recorder is a certified passport acceptance facility. It sees 25 appointments a day in peak summer season. Many of those customers aren't happy about the passport wait times they're quoted.
"Ten to 13 weeks," Brim said.
Applicants can pay $60 more for expedited processing and $20 more for expedited shipping, but could still be waiting over two months. The expedited quote time is currently seven to nine weeks, Brim said.
"I think we have a lot of phone calls on, you know, 'I didn't plan my trip 13 weeks out,' so having to pay an expedited fee, or not realizing they have to get their passport so far in advance," Brim said.
That's why Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a Democrat who represents Colorado's 8th Congressional District, is announcing the Federal Assistance for Streamlining Travel Passports Act.
"We will take care of the entire system to make sure the wait times go down to really what the goal is around two to three weeks for expedited, six to nine weeks for a regular passport application," Caraveo said during a press conference.
Caraveo says outdated processes and a lack of communication between agencies make it difficult for applicants to get updates.
"It would be getting rid of some of the duplication that they do, where literally two passport books end up being printed for the same person, because there is no communication between the two processing agencies," Caraveo said.
The Passport Modernization Act, co-sponsored by Caraveo and introduced earlier this year by U.S. Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA), is already working to increase passport office staff, update the online passport system and enhance congressional oversight of passport processing activities. Caraveo says the FAST Passports Act would work alongside the Passport Modernization Act to streamline the application process and reduce wait times.
Caraveo will introduce the legislation on Tuesday. She says cost and funding have not yet been explored, but she hopes U.S. Department of State could absorb the cost of the potential changes.
In the meantime, if you're having issues with your passport application, contact your congressional office. It might be able to get answers for you faster.
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