People who want to renew their passports instantly won’t be allowed to guide last-minute appointments on-line, the U.S. State Department introduced on Thursday.
Those last-minute appointments, that are meant for individuals with pressing journey wants, can now be scheduled solely by telephone, the division mentioned.
The cause for the change? It is supposed to resolve “the problem of third parties booking all available appointments using bots, and then selling them to applicants with urgent travel needs,” the division mentioned in a press release posted on its web site. Some appointments offered by third events price as a lot as $300, USA Today reported.
The division mentioned the change was “temporary” however didn’t point out when reserving these appointments on-line could resume.
The appointments might be made by calling the National Passport Information Center, at 1-877-487-2778, from eight a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday by Friday. “Wait times to reach a customer service representative can be long,” the division mentioned on its web site. “Last-minute in-person appointments are still extremely limited.”
The last-minute appointments are typically restricted to individuals who want to journey for life-or-death associated emergencies, State Department officers mentioned in a press release earlier this month. Americans looking for passports for nonessential journey are being provided “very limited appointments,” and are required to present paperwork indicating their journey is inside 72 hours, the division mentioned.
Thursday’s announcement took place 16 months after pandemic lockdown restrictions began forcing many individuals to abruptly abandon their journey plans.
The pandemic additionally led the State Department to considerably scale back its passport operations in March 2020 so as to shield its employees from contracting Covid-19, the division mentioned. This led to lots of of hundreds of American passports expiring.
Now, as journey restrictions are easing in Europe, Canada and elsewhere, plenty of these passports nonetheless want to be renewed. And authorities officers are nonetheless working by the backlog.
Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, mentioned on Monday that the division had elevated the variety of employees addressing the passport backlog. “We are doing all we can, and we will continue to look for ways that we might seek and be able to accelerate passport processing.”
Routine passport service by mail can take so long as 18 weeks, in accordance to the division’s web site. (That contains up to 12 weeks for “processing” and up to six weeks for mailing, in accordance to the location.) Before the pandemic, that service might take six to eight weeks.
Expedited passport service, which prices an extra $60, can now take up to 12 weeks, in contrast with earlier than the pandemic, when it took a couple of days to three weeks. A same-day expedited passport prices $170, with an extra $35 for first-time candidates.