7 GOP senators slam State Dept for ‘slow and inefficient policy’ on passports
Seven GOP senators are calling on the State Department to continue renewing passports despite travel advisories and lockdowns put in place due to the pandemic.
The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was spearheaded by Republican Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), who last week called for the department to resume passport applications after learning it paused the application process for 1.6 million Americans when it stopped taking new applications March 19.
The Republican lawmakers, Sens. Lankford, John Cornyn (Texas), David Perdue (Ga.), Kelly Loeffler (Ga.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), John Boozman (Ark.) and Mitt Romney (Utah), called the policy “unacceptable,” “inadequate” and “slow and inefficient.”
“We hope you will take steps to correct and improve this plan to ensure the Department is not partially responsible for stifling international commerce at a time when our nation is eager to resume economic activity,” the lawmakers wrote.
On the State Department’s website, the agency claims people who submitted applications before operations were limited on March 19 will experience “significant delays of several months.”
Only people who can prove they are facing a “life-or-death emergency” can apply for a passport under the current travel advisories in place by the department and public health officials. Applicants must show proof of “serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family” to be considered.
In a statement to ABC News, the agency said that the sensitive nature of the passport application process makes it infeasible to process them remotely. The department plans to begin reopening their offices in phases, with the first phase still not underway.
“Processing passport applications requires us to review sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and other personal records, and to physically print and mail passport books and cards back to applicants. This means that our staff are not able to process passport applications from home,” the agency told ABC news.
In a statement to The Hill, the agency said that the sensitive nature of the passport application process makes them infeasible to process them remotely. The department plans to begin reopening their offices in phases. However, the first phase has yet to take place.
“Passport applications must be adjudicated in our facilities to protect customers’ personally identifiable information and ensure the integrity of the application process. We maintain the highest standards of security and privacy protection for our customers, and must secure sensitive documents like birth certificates and naturalization certificates in our offices,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill.
Passports applications must also be processed in-person because staff must physically print and mail passport books and cards to applicants. The agency’s offices across the country will open on different dates depending on the status of the pandemic where they are located.
Updated 5:07 p.m.