Passport backlog ruining vacations, inspiring scammers

U.S.

(NewsNation Now) — Getting a new passport is taking some people as long as five months. That kind of wait time is ruining vacations and keeping loved ones apart. It’s even gotten the attention of entrepreneurs, scammers and Congress.

“I waited in line for 7 hours yesterday in Connecticut,” said traveler Ruth Ortiz as she stood in line at a Vermont passport facility. “And today I’ve been here since 3 o’clock in the morning.”

“It’s just been a really long waiting game and they’re giving us no hope,” another applicant said.

With many countries closed to foreigners, very few people even thought about their passports during the first year of the pandemic. Now, more than 2 million applications wait to be processed as countries open up.

It’s not just vacations, but people trying to visit loved ones who are sick and dying.

As the problem got worse, scammers stepped in. They’re using automated bots to schedule large blocks of appointments and then sell them on the open market for thousands of dollars. On Wednesday, the State Department shut down its online application system.

Congressman Tim Burchett (R, Tenn.) said the State Department is “dropping the ball.”

Right now his office is getting five times the normal number of requests for help with passports. He suggests sending passports in up to a year early.

“As soon as you know you’re gonna travel or if you even think you’re gonna travel, go on and get it in because we’ve had some incredibly long delays,” he said.

Thursday, Burchett co-sponsored a bill forcing the State Department to come up with a plan to eliminate the backlog.

The State Department says they are not giving refunds if you missed your trip. They will only refund the $60 expedited fee if your passport didn’t come in on time.

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