The Passport's in the Mail

October 2, 2007
Protesters of U.S. Foreign Policy

Heath Kern, Director of Digital Media, provides additional information in the video above.

Steven Royster, Spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, comments on the latest developments regarding passport applications.

We are back on top of our passport game. Over the summer, the Consular Affairs Bureau, with the support of the whole Department, worked hard and now we're back to processing routine passport applications in no more than six weeks. This is great news, and provides for a smooth transition as we return to passport rules that went into effect in January. Once again, all Americans must have passports when returning to the United States on international flights (with one exception, see "If you traveled under... below).

One of the many things we did this summer was work with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security to minimize inconveniences to the American public as we worked through the record demand for passports (we issued 18 million passports in the year ending in September - compared to 12 million the year before). Under this "accommodation," as we've come to call it in-house, Americans who were waiting for their passport could fly back home after trips to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda with proof that they had applied for the passport. This accommodation was scheduled to end on September 30, and as the date approaches we find ourselves turning around passports as promptly as we did before those travel rules went into effect.

But over the past few days, reporters have been calling me about the "change in passport rules." They're actually disappointed when I explain that this "change" is just a return to the way it was before. But it's just that simple - we're going back to the rules in January: if you're flying out of the United States, you'll be just fine if you have passport in hand when you return. If you traveled under our "accommodation" before September 30, you can return to the U.S. with the same proof of passport application you used when you left.

This means that, despite the changes in rules and proposals over the past few months, that if you're planning to travel internationally, the best advice is the simplest: Apply now for your passport. With new hires and plans for meeting even greater increases in demand in the months ahead, we're ready. We're handling record numbers of passport applications, but we're turning them around as fast as we did last year.

By the way, this gives me a chance to share my personal passport story. In the height of our summer passport crunch, I dropped my application in the mail to renew it. My new passport showed up in the mail about seven weeks later, even as stories ran across the countries about Americans whose applications took longer. While service was disrupted for some customers, many of us got our passports back with time to spare. Still, it's great to be able to share news today that we expect that all travelers who apply today should have their passports within six weeks.



Maryland, USA
September 30, 2007

Steve in Maryland writes:
We had great luck with our passport renewals, receiving them in about eight weeks. Well done to all the hard-working people who kept our travels on schedule this autumn!

South Carolina, USA
October 2, 2007

Joy in South Carolina writes:
Kudos to all who sacrificed their time away from their family in order to accommodate the demands of the public. I am priviledged to have worked alongside the most dedicated people.

St. A.
October 3, 2007

Augustine writes: Your blog is very difficult to read beacuse of the black background. That is certainly in line with this administration's performance throughout government. Most of the actions of this administrations are difficult to understand and, like the appearance of this blog, do not do the job properly.

District Of Columbia, USA
October 3, 2007

Mike in Washington, DC writes:
@ Augustine -- I agree with Augustine that the appearance of the blog could be improved by changing the background color from black.

John B.
Hawaii, USA
October 3, 2007

John in Hawaii writes:
How sad!

A complete avoidance of what is racking our nation.


What's the point to your blog if it doesn't deal openly and at length with the main state department issue of the day?

Sierra Leone
October 3, 2007

David in Sierra Leone writes:
While I am glad to hear that the wait for passports is now down to 6 weeks, even this is far too long. We applied for our daughters' renewal in the spring and they took 11 weeks! The Department should be able to turn around a renewal in under 3 weeks. Keep working on the matter!

Michigan, USA
October 4, 2007

Ryan in Michigan writes:
I think the black background is just fine. I find it easy to read.

I do, however, think you need to address Iraq in this blog. It's all well and good that the passport application process is back to standard, but i would hope you also get around to the big fish, as well.

As a journalist in a small town, I know the value of reporting both the feature stories that typically make people look good by their very nature. But they should go hand in hand with the more difficult topics of discussion. It's not that the coverage needs to be "balanced" (a term that is both over-used and inappropriate), it just needs to reflect the community. In this case, I think you should crow about the passports; it's a good thing.

But hit the bigger topics, too.

Not that the discussion on Iraq will be easy to sort through or very productive. (But, that's Democracy. It's messy)

Dipnote Blogger Frederick Jones writes:
@ Ryan in Michigan -- You are right. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the Administration's policy, Iraq is the central foreign policy issue that we face. Understand that blog entries about and from Iraq are a high, if not the highest, priority for this blog. As such, we are soliciting bloggers who are currently posted at Embassy Baghdad and blog entries from our people who work on Iraq here in Washington . We want the readers of this blog to hear from the people who work in and deal with Iraq everyday and to form their own opinions about the material they are being presented. We're also hoping to hear from personnel stationed in Afghanistan as well. As readers, you should realize that this is a new medium for us here at the Department and it's a format that everyone has to get comfortable with. This is an organic process, and as we grow, readers should see that growth reflected in our content, format, and features.

California, USA
October 3, 2007

Dave in California writes:
It's got to be hard to be relegated to writing a post that crows 'we're now doing our jobs competently', where passports are concerned.

Too bad State continues to shank diplomatic crises world-wide. Say, fellas, how's that 'roadmap' working out for you? Getting closer to a diplomatic solution in Iraq?

Georgia, USA
October 4, 2007

Adrienne in Georgia writes:
In June, I mailed my passport in to have it renewed, and I received it back in about 6 weeks. Since I didn't have a trip coming up, I was pleased with the response. I would like to thank the State Department for their prompt and professional service.


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