Britt Johnson arrived at the West Los Angeles Federal Building around midnight, in order to apply for a passport as quickly as possible. The office opened at 7:01 a.m.
Johnson was eager to visit a Mexican relative who was dying. He joined hundreds of other travelers as he waited in line for the announcement that no walk-ins would be accepted for passport applications.
At passport offices across the U.S., the disappointment felt in the crowd was evident. They have been overrun by people eager to travel again since COVID-19 restrictions have gradually been lifted in recent months.
According to the State Department, wait times for passports have increased to 12 to 18 weeks due to high demand. Many people like Johnson have sought expedited appointments at understaffed passport office offices. These can take up to 12 week.
Johnson stated that Johnson’s travel plans were “very urgent”. Johnson said, “It is very important to me right at this moment. “So I’m going to do my best to get it.”
His only options for scheduling an appointment in person are to make it online or to call. Marvella Carson was trying to attend a Jamaican cousin’s wedding. She said that she tried both online and by phone, but with no success.
“You won’t be able to get through. It is impossible to access their website. “You can’t reach them by phone,” Carson stated, as he waited outside the federal building Los Angeles.
She has accepted the fact that she won’t be able to attend the wedding.
People are now ready to travel again after more than a decade of pandemic-related lockdowns. However, the State Department closed many offices last year to ensure employees safety, creating a huge backlog.
This is due to ripple effects of the pandemic, which caused severe disruptions in the domestic issuance process and at overseas embassies/consulates.
According to the department, there is a backlog of between 1.5 million and 2 million passport requests. This means that most applications received now will not be processed until fall.
Rachel Arndt (deputy assistant secretary of state) stated this month that as the pandemic restrictions ease, the department will increase its staffing levels throughout the United States. She said that Americans should apply for or renew their passports at least six months before they travel.
People who do not have immediate travel plans should renew their passports via mail.
The State Department and Department of Homeland Security are taking steps to help Americans who have expired passports abroad return to their homeland.
In May, the departments announced that U.S. citizens living overseas and whose passports had expired after January 1, 2020 would be able use their documents to enter the United States until December 31, 2021. This provision does not apply to travel within other countries, unless it is a transit country.