Suppressed demand for travel leads to a backlog of passport processing in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) – For Austin father Scott Brown, processing his daughter’s passport renewal seemed simple enough: Fill out some paperwork, gather her documents and book an appointment in person.

Then came the logistical matters associated with minors’ passports. Both parents had to show up for the appointment, which posed their own challenges with his daughter’s school days and his and his wife’s work schedules.

When he went to book an appointment online, not a single Austin location had an appointment available in the next four weeks—and there was no way to look ahead, with only appointment slots displayed in a four-week period.

I started trying to schedule a date for my family, and every one of them said the same thing. “It’s just an appointment, it’s not going, and then there are no appointments available,” Brown recounted.

That demand is being felt across the board, said Eric Leighton, owner of Just Passports in Austin. He gets calls from people all over the country asking for passport renewal, as local post offices and processing facilities are backlogged.

“You can’t get an appointment at a post office right now all over the USA,” he said. “Because I help people all over the United States, and you can’t have one.”

Prior to September, he said his company received 20 calls a day to inquire about passport renewal. right Now? This daily rate has increased to 200.

Compounding that pent-up demand for travel, Layton said a staff shortage at central passport-processing agencies, such as those in Houston, has prompted them to cap the number of passport applications local companies like Just Passports can accept each day.

“Before the epidemic, we could do several passports a day. This was not a big problem,” he said. “I think there are no employees [at main facilities] To be able to help. So if we wanted to bring all of these passports…including all the passports that come into their facility, they wouldn’t be able to get anyone’s passports. So they started limiting it to one passport a day.”

Just Passports specializes in customer expedited passport services, focusing on customers departing for their flights within 14 days.

With a single passport cap for their operations, he said he is currently booked through early June.

I can’t even do more work on passports. He said. “And I have six or seven employees, so it’s tough. Sure.”

For adults looking to renew their passports, it can be renewed by mail if all of the following conditions are met:

  • You have your current non-expired passport to submit with your application
  • Not damaged other than normal wear
  • Released to you when you were 16 or older
  • Released within the past fifteen years
  • Released under your current name or you can document your name change

As for renewing minors’ passports, Layton said the process is essentially the same as applying for a passport for the first time, right down to mandatory in-person appointments. This is due to the condition of the minor child and the need for parents or guardians to be present during the application process.

For adult travelers, they can renew their passports by mail. The process typically takes eight to 11 weeks to process, while an expedited one—for an additional $60—has an average turnaround of five to seven weeks.

For families looking to travel internationally, Leighton recommends parents start the renewal process after four years, before minors reach their five-year expiration date. Many countries and some airlines require travelers to have six months validity – or a length of time before their passport expires – to travel abroad.

For simple requests that include a notarized signature from a parent, he said government requests must be filled in black ink.

“If this form is in blue ink, it will be rejected and it will delay the whole process,” he said.

Domestically, the Travis County District Clerk office processed more than 3,800 applications this year, with a typical service routine turning between eight to 11 weeks. The office currently has six agents and is by appointment only, processing between 60 and 80 passport applications per day.

“On the Appointments website, we only schedule appointments for one month at a time. Every Monday morning, I will add 160 additional appointments with our online appointment scheduled for an additional week,” said Travis County District Clerk Velva L. Price in an email. “Once you add 160 appointments to our system, they will usually be gone within 2-3 hours!”

Price said the office will maintain its hiring system to help keep employees safe in the office and will consider adjusting the system, depending on staffing levels.

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