Passport Services Delayed Beyond 8 Weeks; Expedited Passport Services Suspended Indefinitely

On the same day in which a Global Level 4 Health Advisory to reconsider travel was officially issued by the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the Department of State of the United States, an advisory pertaining to passport services was officially issued by the aforementioned agency earlier today, Thursday, March 19, 2020 in response to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV — pandemic.

Passport Services Delayed Beyond 8 Weeks; Expedited Passport Services Suspended Indefinitely

Generally, routine passport services will take longer than six to eight weeks to process; and expedited passport services will be suspended effective as of tomorrow, Friday, March 20, 2020 with no timeline at this time as to when expedited passport services will return.

passport stamps

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The following text is repeated verbatim from the official advisory.

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad at this time due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice. You can find additional guidance about the Department’s recommendations in response to COVID-19 here.

Change in Passport Services Operations                              

Due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, effective March 20, 2020, we are only able to offer service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.

Life-or-death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g. parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc) that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 days). You must provide:

  • passport application with supporting documents
  • Proof of the life-or-death emergency such as a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional. Documents must be translated or in English.
  • Proof of international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket, itinerary)

To make an appointment at a passport agency or center for a life-or-death emergency, you must call our National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 (1-888-874-7793 TDD/TTY) on Monday- Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm Eastern Time, except federal holidays or on Saturdays, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Eastern Time. Call 202-647-4000 outside of these hours to make an appointment.

If you applied and requested expedited service on or before March 19, 2020, we will honor our commitment of 2-3 weeks door-to-door for expedited service. If you applied in-person at a passport agency or center on or before March 19, 2020, the passport agency or center will contact you and ask if you want to pick-up your passport in person or have it mailed to you.

Customers in Puerto Rico should be aware that our San Juan Passport Agency is closed to the public until at least March 30, 2020.

Due to public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some passport application acceptance facilities, which include libraries, clerks of court, and post offices may not be accepting U.S. passport applications at this time. If you need to apply in person for your U.S. passport, please contact the facility directly to confirm if they are accepting applications.

If you are applying for or renewing a U.S. passport on or after March 20, 2020, we will not offer expedited service (2-3 weeks) and routine service (6-8 weeks) may be delayed.

The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.

Summary

At the time this article was written, at least 8,648 people have died of the minimum of 207,855 confirmed cases in 166 countries and territories worldwide, according to this situation dashboard from the World Health Organization pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

A Level 4 advisory to restrict travel — which is the highest level that warns Do Not Travel — was also 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.

Even if you were to travel, numerous countries have 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.

Either way, I hope your passport does not expire anytime soon — and if it did, I wonder if the same restrictions will be in place pertaining to obtaining a new passport if a period of time elapses since an old passport expired once the system returns to some semblance of normalcy sometime in the future.

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:

All photographs ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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