Passport application appointments scarce, leading to months-long waits
Yuba City, Calif. – John Poganski was worried he wasn’t going to Toronto, Canada to help his team in the Race Car Series. He faced the challenge of trying to get a passport, though he said the process of applying for one was the easy part.
On the other hand, finding an appointment to apply for one was not that easy.
Poganski could not find the passport acceptance center. This is because most locations are fully booked with available appointment windows.
In Northern California, some locations have no appointments available until mid-September.
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The United States Postal Service Passport Acceptance Facility accepted walk-ins for service, but almost every appointment was booked for the next 45 days.
“Due to the increase in demand for passports, we are seeing a large volume of requests for passport appointments,” said a USPS spokesperson.
This leads to Poganski-like situations. Passengers may not be able to make scheduled journeys due to demand.
“It took a while to plan,” Poganski said, adding that he had to drive more than an hour to find an acceptance facility that was able to accept his passport application.
The Sutter County Clerk-Recorder’s Office is one of the few passport acceptance facilities in Northern California that accepts walk-ins only and does not schedule appointments.
“There was a time when the passport agency wasn’t accepting any applications, so we got a backlog of people wanting to get an application,” said Clerk-Recorder Donna Johnston.
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Johnston said customers start lining up early in the morning before the office opens to ensure they can submit their passport applications. The Acceptance Center will then forward the applications to the Department of State for processing.
“I got a co-worker to come in early, so I could be here when he opened at 7,” Poganski said. Johnston said they occasionally have travelers come from out of state to submit applications.
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“The easing of travel restrictions has also increased the number of people arriving,” Johnston said.
State Department figures show a sharp decline in passports issued during the pandemic in 2020.
Only 12 million passports were issued in 2020 compared to over 20 million in 2019. In 2021, more than 15 million passports were issued.
“To avoid delays and potential travel disruptions, U.S. citizens and nationals should apply for a new passport as soon as possible,” a State Department spokeswoman said.
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Due to the lack of appointments and factoring in processing time, it can take several months to receive a passport.
Current processing time for passport is 8-11 weeks for routine service and 5-7 weeks for expedited service. This time frame refers to the wait after the applications arrive at the passport agency.