NATIONAL (CBS NEWSPATH) – If you let your passport lapse during the pandemic, pack your patience to renew it. The State Department is playing catchup with the backlog. But appointments to renew or get a new passport are hard to come by and scammers are getting in on the game.
Denise Grueneberg submitted her passport renewal application May 1st and she’s still waiting. The nursing supervisor booked a Caribbean vacation with her family for July 30th, but she might not be able to get there.
The State Department is trying to dig out from under a backlog of as many as two million passport applications. “For the past 6 months I have been trying to get my passport renewed,” Kayla Stewart says. “I have been calling, texting, emailing, carrier pigeon, bat signaling, you name it.”
Lines are popping up at understaffed passport offices. The State Department says it’s trying to ramp up operations to pre-pandemic levels, but it takes time. “The pandemic disruptions continue to have a ripple effect on all steps of the passport process, including the amount of time it currently takes us to process a passport application. We are surging staff, both adjudicators and contractors, back into the office at agencies across the country as COVID restrictions ease,” said Rachel Arndt, the deputy assistant secretary for passport services.
Current processing time is 12 to 18 weeks, which means passport applicants might have to keep their feet on the ground until the fall. Officials say they’re also aware of vendors fraudulently selling passport appointments online.
The State Department says an extremely limited number of passport appointments are available for those with urgent travel needs. Some applicants have obtained appointments after reaching out to their representatives and senators in Congress.