With all but a trickle of passport processing on hold, regulators and U.S. lawmakers are sounding the alarm about a backlog of 1.6 million unprocessed applications for new passports or renewals.
The U.S. government shut down most passport services in mid-March due to coronavirus, only processing passport applications for urgent or “life-or-death emergencies.” Yet the U.S. State Department still received more than 9,000 applications daily, on average.
That's resulted in a massive backlog of 1.6 million passport applications that are still sitting in limbo.
“This is unacceptable and we urge you to reexamine this policy,” Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and several other Republican lawmakers wrote in a letter to the State Department last week. “Since the taxpayers have paid for this Department to be fully operational, they are right to expect their requests to be processed in a timely and professional fashion.”
That backlog will almost certainly lead to long delays for anyone trying to renew or get a new passport in the coming months.
The State Department is planning a three-phase reopening to resume work – including passports – beginning Thursday, June 11. Passport services will resume at just a handful of locations across the country. And the department still asks that “customers wait to submit new or renewal applications as delays will continue.”
The group of U.S. senators raised concerns that the plans to restart services have no concrete plans to tackle the backlog of passport applications and renewals.
Passport services may soon get underway again, but this backlog will cause some serious headaches for anyone trying to get a new passport or renew their existing documents.