Passport application appointments scarce, leading to months-long waits
YUBA CITY, California – Jon Poganski was worried he wouldn’t make it to Toronto, Canada, to help his team in a race car series. He faced the challenge of getting a passport, though he said applying for one was the easiest.
On the other hand, finding an appointment to request one was not that easy.
Poganski couldn’t find a passport acceptance center. That’s because most places are fully booked and there are no available appointment windows.
In Northern California, some locations have no available appointments until mid-September.
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The United States Postal Service passport acceptance facility accepts walk-ins for the service, but almost every appointment was booked for the next 45 days.
“Due to the huge demand for passports, we are seeing a high volume of applications for passport appointments,” said a USPS spokesperson.
This leads to situations like Poganski’s. Travelers may not be able to take scheduled trips due to demand.
“It took some time to plan it,” Poganski said, adding that he had to drive more than an hour to find an acceptance facility that could accept his passport application.
The Sutter County Registrar’s Office is one of the few passport acceptance facilities in Northern California that only accepts walk-ins and does not schedule appointments.
“There was a time when the passport office wouldn’t accept applications, so we have that backlog of people wanting to apply,” said Clerk-Recorder Donna Johnston.
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Johnston said customers line up early in the morning before the office opens to make sure they can submit their passport applications. The acceptance center then sends the applications to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for processing.
“I had a colleague come in early so I could be here when they opened at 7,” Poganski said. Johnston said they occasionally have out-of-state travelers come to the office to submit applications.
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“As travel restrictions have eased, so has the number of people coming in,” Johnston said.
State Department data shows that the number of passports issued during the 2020 pandemic fell sharply.
In 2020, nearly 12 million passports were issued, compared to over 20 million in 2019. In 2021, more than 15 million passports were issued.
“To avoid delays and potential travel disruptions, U.S. citizens and nationals should apply for a new passport as soon as possible,” a State Department spokesman said.
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Due to the lack of appointments and considering processing times, it can take months to get a passport.
The current passport processing time is 8-11 weeks for routine service and 5-7 weeks for expedited service. These time frames represent waiting times after applications arrive at a passport office.