September 19, 2021

Passport backlog: State Department shuts down online booking system to stop scammers, only taking calls

NEW YORK — The U.S. Department of State has shut down its online passport appointment system, saying scammers are utilizing bots to scoop up and resell appointments.

This comes because the State Department faces an enormous backlog for brand new and renewed passports as international journey begins to open for Individuals following a 12 months and a half of COVID-19 restrictions.

The division’s web site mentioned it disabled its booking system totally to “ensure our very limited appointments go to applicants who need them for urgent travel.”

Final week, division officers mentioned the watch for a passport is now between 12 weeks and 18 weeks, even in case you pay for expedited processing. That is due to ripple results from the coronavirus pandemic that induced excessive disruptions to the method at home issuance services and abroad embassies and consulates.

With online appointments shut down, the State Department is only taking new functions by telephone.

This manner, a consultant can as a substitute give an applicant distinctive affirmation info used to confirm that the one that made the appointment is identical one who is available in, a division official instructed ABC Information. It is unclear why the division cannot try this online.

Callers may have to watch for greater than an hour to attain a consultant earlier than making an appointment, per the official.

“At the moment, demand is greater than supply, although we’re adding more appointments as more staff return to our passport agencies,” that official mentioned.

In-person appointments are nonetheless extraordinarily restricted and prioritized for life-or-death emergencies, the official added.

Over the previous week, the typical every day variety of vacationers screened by the TSA has topped 2 million. A division official says a backlog of 1.5 million to 2 million passport requests implies that functions submitted now in all probability won’t be processed till the autumn.

The Related Press contributed to this report.