GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you are planning to travel internationally this summer, you may want to check the expiration date on your passport.
The U.S. Department of State is dealing with high demand and has a backlog of requests. Processing times are adding additional months for a standard requests and even expedited requests are taking longer.
It’s the reason a spring break trip to the Dominican Republic almost did not happen for Steve Edwards and his wife.
“My wife, unbeknownst to me, had been saving to surprise me for a 25th anniversary trip,” Edwards said.
Edwards, who lives in the Muskegon area, knew they needed to renew their passports that expired during the pandemic but didn’t know just how long it might take to process them.
“We paid for the expedited processing and the overnight shipping and you know it was supposed to be five to seven weeks,” Edwards said.
They checked the status online and realized by week seven that the request hadn’t been processed, so Edwards reached out to U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten’s office to look into the status of the application.
“We were leaving on a Sunday and the second one arrived on Thursday night,” Edwards said. “We had to cancel by Friday or we would have completely lost out on anything that was invested in the trip.”
Bradley Stek, a district representative with Scholten’s office, helped Edwards navigate the system.
“We were getting kind of an unprecedented amount of inquiries and that just kept building,” Stek said. “Just not receiving any communication sometimes from the passport centers. There were issues with the website. We tried to figure out where and what status your passport was in.”
Stek said some people were able to get appointments at passport offices in Detroit or Chicago and get their problems worked out. Others had to travel even farther.
“The appointments were nearly impossible to get because you have everyone in the country calling and they were willing to travel really at any passport center throughout, including Hawaii, or El Paso, Texas; Buffalo to get their passport,” Stek said.
Travel agents like John Lovell, the owner of Breton Travel, say a little planning can help if you do run into delays.
“You want to go check your passports. Make sure they’re good for more than six months past your travel date. Make sure you have a copy of it,” Lovell said.
For more information on how to apply to renew, you can visit the U.S. Department of State passport page. If you are experiencing delays and have an urgent travel need, you can contact your representative’s office. For information on contacting Scholten’s office, you can visit her webpage.