More Passport Agencies Enter Phases Two and Three of Resuming Normal Operations — October 2020

Of the 27 passport agencies and passport centers which have all reopened effective as of Monday, September 14, 2020, only eight of them are part of the first of three phases; 16 of them now part of the second phase; and three of them are in the third phase of resuming the normal operations of processing passport applications, according to the latest update from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State of the United States:

  1. Arkansas Passport Center Phase One
  2. Atlanta Passport Agency Phase Two
  3. Boston Passport Agency Phase Two
  4. Buffalo Passport Agency Phase Three
  5. Charleston Passport Agency Phase Two — closed to the public
  6. Chicago Passport Agency Phase One
  7. Colorado Passport Agency Phase Two
  8. Connecticut Passport Agency Phase Two
  9. Dallas Passport Agency Phase One
  10. Detroit Passport Agency Phase Two
  11. El Paso Passport Agency Phase One
  12. Honolulu Passport Agency Phase Two
  13. Houston Passport Agency Phase One
  14. Los Angeles Passport Agency Phase Two
  15. Miami Passport Agency Phase Two
  16. Minneapolis Passport Agency Phase One
  17. National Passport Center Phase Two
  18. New Orleans Passport Center Phase Three
  19. New York Passport Agency Phase Two
  20. Philadelphia Passport Agency Phase Two
  21. San Diego Passport Agency Phase Two
  22. San Francisco Passport Agency Phase Two
  23. San Juan Passport Agency Phase Two
  24. Seattle Passport Agency Phase One
  25. Vermont Passport Agency Phase Three
  26. Washington Passport Agency Phase Two
  27. Western Passport Center Phase One

More Passport Agencies Enter Phases Two and Three of Resuming Normal Operations — October 2020

Passport

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

As first reported in this article at The Gate, the three phases of resuming the normal operations of processing passport applications at official facilities, passport agencies, and passport centers include:

  • Phase 1:
    • Limited staff return to work, allowing the resumption of limited processing of applications which have already been received
    • Applications will be processed on a first in, first out basis
    • Services for customers with life-or-death emergencies will continue to be prioritized
    • Customers must wear cloth face coverings in all common areas — including in the lobbies of passport agencies and passport centers — and observe strict distancing from each other
    • Customers are still advised to wait to submit new or renewal applications during phase one, as delays will continue.
  • Phase 2:
    • Additional staff will return to work
    • Applications will be processed on a first in, first out basis — beginning with the oldest applications
    • Only customers with life-or-death emergencies can book appointments for having their passport applications processed
    • Staff and customers should wear cloth face coverings in all common areas — including in the lobbies of passport agencies and passport centers — and continue to observe strict distancing from each other.
  • Phase 3:
    • All remaining staff return to work
    • Applications will continue to be addressed on a first in, first out basis — focusing on the oldest applications
    • Staff and customers may wear cloth face coverings in common areas; and distancing from each other will be encouraged
    • Expedited processing of passports will resume, with limited appointments for customers traveling within two weeks

How Long Before You Receive Your Passport?

Passport

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State of the United States continues to face some delays in processing passports — but the timeframe for the routine processing of passports is between ten weeks and twelve weeks. Your patience is requested as employees safely get back to work on your passport application — starting with phase one of the aforementioned reopening plan.

If your application for a passport is still pending processing, your documents are being stored in secure facilities.

Expedited processing of passports within six weeks is once again possible for a fee of $60.00 instead of routine service in twelve weeks; so if you applied and have not yet received your passport, you may call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 and request to expedite your passport. To have your passport expedited in person at a passport agency, appointments are limited only to those people who must have international travel within 72 hours or three business days.

To book an appointment at a passport agency or passport center, you must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 — or 1-888-874-7793 TDD/TTY — on Monday through Friday, 8:00 in the morning to 10:00 in the evening Eastern Time, except federal holidays. Call 202-647-4000 outside of these hours to arrange for an appointment.

You can also use those telephone numbers to check the status of your application. If you call the National Passport Information Center or check the Online Passport Status System after you apply or renew, your application status may be “Not Found” or “In Process.” While applications continue to be accepted, your payments continue to be processed, and your forms and supporting documents continue to be safeguarded, the “Not Found” and “In Process” status messages may not be able to be updated until all of the official facilities, passport agencies, and passport centers across the country have entered Phase Three of resuming the normal operations of processing passports.

You do not need to renew your passport before it expires unless you are planning to travel internationally. Customers eligible to renew their passport have up to five years to renew their document after it expires. After five years from the expiration date, you must apply in person. Most countries require that your United States passport has at least six months of validity beyond the dates of your trip.

REAL ID Will NOT Be Enforced at Airports Later This Year

Due to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security extended the deadline for REAL ID by one year until Friday, October 1, 2021. Beginning in October 2021, the Department of Homeland Security will require customers to use a REAL ID to fly domestically. The most common REAL ID is a state-issued driver’s license. A United States passport book and passport card are two of many alternative documents that customers can use to fly domestically if they do not have a state-issued REAL ID. For more information on REAL ID, go to this official web site of the the Department of Homeland Security.

Customers Overseas Who Need a Passport

Embassies and consulates of the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State of the United States are currently providing emergency passport services to customers overseas. For emergency passport services for citizens of the United States who are abroad, please contact the United States embassy or consulate closest to your current location. Customers should expect delays when applying for non-emergency passport or citizenship services. The Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State of the United States hopes to return to normal passport processing, as soon as doing so is safe.

Summary

A Level 4 advisory to restrict travel — which is the highest level that warns Do Not Travel — was initially issued on Thursday, March 19, 2020 by the Department of State of the United States, which introduced an improved travel advisory system of sharing information on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 for travelers who are citizens of the United States. This system is designed to provide clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information worldwide. The Level 4 advisory to restrict travel is still in effect, which advises that citizens of the United States avoid all international travel because of the impact of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. If you are considering international travel at this time, you should read the advisory and familiarize yourself with the risks.

Even if you were to travel, numerous countries had either strengthened restrictions for entry to foreigners and visitors — or the borders are simply closed off altogether — which has led to airlines substantially diminishing their route networks by reducing or eliminating flight schedules. The good news is that some countries have announced the opening of their borders to visitors again — either with restricted access or full access — but no guarantees are given that changes in those announcements will not occur.

Either way, the system of processing passport applications is even closer to some semblance of normalcy — and reports of people receiving passports faster than expected is certainly encouraging…

All photographs ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

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