Renewing the US passport has become a lengthy and expensive nightmare after the COVID-19 pandemic

World News
2023-07-07 | 06:52
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Renewing the US passport has become a lengthy and expensive nightmare after the COVID-19 pandemic
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4min
Renewing the US passport has become a lengthy and expensive nightmare after the COVID-19 pandemic

Since the resumption of international flights and the reopening of borders after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, the demand for passport renewal in the United States has become an administrative nightmare.

Nyle Khaw, 20, traveled all the way from his residence in Houston to New York, over 2,600 kilometers away, to pick up his passport in time to catch a flight to London in a few hours. His father also managed to secure an appointment just before his travel date. "I don't know how he (my father) did it," the young man said, emerging from the passport office.

Outside the administrative building, dozens of people wait their turn, some compelled to travel abroad due to the death of a relative, for work, or even for tourism.

David Alwadish, co-founder of "ItsEasy", a company that handles administrative processes like passport renewals in the United States, believes that the difficulties faced by passport renewal applicants are linked to a combination of factors.

"It feels like all Americans decided to renew their passports and travel at the same time," he told AFP. "I have never seen this in forty years."

In addition to the surge in demand post-COVID-19, according to Alwadish, a new online renewal system was introduced, which did not meet security requirements and was temporarily suspended.

In March, the US Department of State estimated that the process of renewing or issuing a new passport would take 10 to 13 weeks, while expedited processes would take seven to nine weeks with an additional fee of $60. These waiting periods are twice as long as they were pre-pandemic.

Since the start of the year, nearly 500,000 applications have been submitted each week, according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's report to a congressional committee, a 30 percent increase from the weekly rate in 2022, a year in which a record 22 million passports were issued.

This "unprecedented demand" comes at a time when the US Department of State had to "reorganize" a service that almost completely disintegrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Blinken, as employees were delegated to other administrative tasks during that period. He urged US citizens to "make sure to check the validity of their document and renew it" as early as possible before their travel date.

To get a passport within a day, many Americans turn to private companies and spend hundreds of dollars. Some spend up to $2,500 to secure an appointment they would normally get for free under normal circumstances.

Those unable to pay these amounts find themselves standing in long waiting lines like Linda, 46, who began her administrative procedures in April for her and her family.

"We received our passports by mail in June, but we have not yet received our children's passports," she says. On the eve of a family trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba, she adds, "It wasn't like this before."

For his part, Blinken believes that the solution lies in rebooting the online service, which could handle at least 60 percent of the requests.
 
AFP

World News

Renewing

US

Passport

Lengthy

Expensive

Process

Nightmare

COVID19

Pandemic

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