About the Author: Jacqueline Harley-Bell serves in the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Office of Passport Services as the Regional Director of South Central Operations.
Currently, U.S. travelers with passport emergencies driving into Mexico or taking flights from El Paso International Airport need to go to the Western Passport Agency in Tucson, Arizona -- several hours away -- for assistance. In 2011, that will change with the opening of the El Paso Passport Agency.
Passport Services and the General Services Administration led staffers of U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16th) on a tour of the future site of the El Paso Passport Agency on December 21. Congressman Reyes' Communications Director, Vincent Perez, along with representatives from the Office of Passport Service and GSA, spoke briefly about the agency, which is scheduled to open to the public in March 2011.
The agency will provide in-person passport services to customers who need to travel domestically in less than two weeks or need an international visa within four weeks. The agency will complement the network of more than five hundred passport application acceptance facilities already serving Texas and nearby states by providing a convenient, expedient alternative for emergency travel. With the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in effect since June 2009, the El Paso Passport Agency will continue to improve our ability to meet the travel needs of customers in several U.S. states along our southern border.