If you’ve been waiting what seems like a long time to get your passport in the mail, you’re not alone: there’s a significant backlog right now.
The problem began when the secure facilities where passports are processed were closed for several months last year due to the pandemic. And even when they reopened, many offices were not fully staffed. The employees who have returned are contending with a massive backlog.
The State Department said there are currently 2 million applications it must process, and it is working to bring back more staff and increase hiring to meet the demand. The agency also said part of the problem involves “mailing delays.”
We contacted the U.S. Postal Service seeking an explanation. It sent us a press release that, in part, reads: “The Post Service continues its efforts to improve service performance and reliability with the goal of meeting or exceeding 95% of on-time delivery.”
Meanwhile, phones at the offices of U.S. representatives and senators have been ringing off the hook.
“The amount of calls to our office regarding passports has been so intense,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Worcester). “People are calling that they have a sick relative in another country, that they’re going to a funeral or a wedding.”
Rep. McGovern told 25 Investigates he’s even had to reassign staff to help with all the passport calls.
“People shouldn’t have to call their member of Congress to be able to get answers and be able to get their passport delivered to them,” he said.
McGovern is among a group of more than 50 members of Congress who are pushing the State Department to clear the passport backlog. They wrote a letter to the State Department demanding a timeline for reducing the “outrageous backlog.”
25 Investigates obtained a copy of the letter which, in part, reads: “When the pandemic forced a nationwide shut down in mid-March of last year, a large backlog of passport applications formed as Bureau of Consular Affairs staff transitioned to remote work.
The Canadian government has prohibited Americans from taking nonessential trips there since March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But that will change on Monday, August 9, when Canada opens its borders once again to leisure travel from its southern neighbors.In a news release issued July 19, the Public Health Agency of Canada said the loosening of these restrictions is taking place because of “rising vaccination rates and declining Covid-19 cases.”As of August 7, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed Canada at “Level 3: High” for Covid-19. Level 4 is the highest warning.