The coronavirus pandemic has hit the travel agency extremely hard. This can be seen in various ways. From most countries still not allowing international travel to airlines offering a ticket at a reasonable price the travel industry is facing a difficult time. It is no more glaring that with the Department of State Passport Agency. After nearly 7 months of silence the Department of State finally announced an expedited processing of 4-6 weeks. Here are some frequent questions that travelers are asking right now:
1.What are the phases that the agencies are using?
There are three phases, with almost all agencies either beginning phase 1 or planning phase 1. Here are the phases below direct from the Department of State website:
Phase 1: Some of our employees will return to our agencies and centers, allowing us to resume limited processing of applications we already received. We will continue to prioritize services for customers with life-or-death emergencies by appointment only. No other expedite service will be available during phase one.
Phase 2: We will be able to resume processing more of the applications we already received. Applications will be processed on a first in, first out basis, beginning with the oldest applications received. We will continue prioritizing life-or-death emergency cases but no other expedited service will be available during phase two.
Phase 3: All remaining staff return to our agencies and centers, and we plan to resume normal operations. We will offer a processing time commitment for routine service and resume expedited service in this phase. Expedite service is available at this time.
2. I have a life or death emergency. What do I do?
If you have a life or death emergency you can call the Department of State and set up an appointment. Please note, you are going to have to prove that this is the case or you will be sent home. This is something they are taking very serious. If you have the proof you can call them at 877-487-2778 to set up an appointment. You do have to go the designated agency in person as no third party service can assist.
3. Can I rush or expedite my passport right now?
The State Department does offer an expedite service for life or death situations only at this time. You must also be able to prove the matter in order for them to assist you. Otherwise, the State Department is offering a 4-6 week process. We are finding that they are doing them closer to 4 weeks but again they do say 4-6 weeks so it’s important to keep that in mind.
4. Can I start the processing of my passport now?
If it is not a life or death emergency, the only way to apply for a passport is either through their expedite 4-6 week process or a regular 10-12 week process. We can assist you with the expediting of a passport renewal using this timeframe.
5. Can I mail in my passport to get processed normally without any expedited charges?
Here is the official stance from the Department of State: You can apply now for regular process, but unless you have a life-or-death emergency, you will experience delays before receiving your passport and the return of your citizenship documents such as previous passports, and birth and naturalization certificates.
6. What if I don’t have a passport and have a trip that I must absolutely make without exception?
Not to be blunt but, at the present time, you must discuss this matter with Department of State. You can call them at the number listed on question 2 and discuss the matter with them. Third party services are not allowed to process until Phase 3. There are no exceptions. There is a distinct possibility that you would have to change your trip.
7. How long until the Department of State can process expedited passports in less than 4-6 weeks?
This is the million dollar question. And unfortunately it does not have an answer. The Department of State has not indicated nor given specific dates when they will reopen. All they are saying is that the reopening is totally dependent on the handling of the pandemic.
8. What can PVM do for me at this time?
PVM is an expedited service. We are not a regular process service and have never been a service for regular processing. We do have to wait for them to reach Phase 3 before we can help clients with a service faster than 4-6 weeks. At the present time we can assist with any passport renewals that would like to take advantage of the 4-6 week timeframe. If you would like you can send us an email and we will be happy to notify you once the Department of State has reopened. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org
9. I want to travel but I need to get my visa before my trip. Can you assist with getting visas at this time?
Not only is the Department of State opened for processing neither are the consulates. Almost all the consulates are closed until further notice. Most consulates will not reopen for visas until it is safe to travel.
10. I mailed in my application at a post office/county clerk but still have not gotten it back. Can you assist me or guide me in what to do?
If you began your application dealing with the Department of State directly through a post office or county clerk you must remain dealing with the Department of State directly. No third party service can help you when you apply in this manner. For information on your application please call 877-487-2778 for information on your application.