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Vermont delegation sends letter about passport delays

July 27, 2021 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the U.S. State Department on Tuesday asking it to direct sufficient resources to work through a backlog of requests for passports and renewals.

“In recent months, our offices have heard from hundreds of Vermonters requesting assistance to go on school trips, reunite with loved ones, and attend to urgent family matters,” U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch wrote in a letter to the acting assistant secretary for consular affairs. “With our state’s vaccination rate at well over 80 percent, our constituents are ready to travel, but delays in passport issuance and renewal have presented significant barriers to their plans.”

They are also hearing from a significant number of Vermonters having trouble with the main number, sometimes waiting on hold for hours, the delegation wrote.

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Earlier this month, the State Department reported a backlog of 1.5 million requests nationwide and said that the wait for a passport is now between 12 weeks and 18 weeks, even if people pay for expedited processing. The delay is because of ripple effects from the coronavirus pandemic that caused extreme disruptions to the process at domestic issuance facilities and overseas embassies and consulates.

In a statement, the State Department said Tuesday they hope to increase staffing enough by mid-August to process an additional 100,000 applications per month, but until that is complete the wait time for routine passports will remain 12 to 18 weeks.

“We have approximately 1.5 to 2 million passports in process,” the statement said. “This level of demand for passports is not unprecedented. Summer is our typical peak season, and we are seeing additional volume due to pent-up demand for travel as COVID restrictions have eased.”