Options For US Passport Services Are Limited During COVID. What Should You Do?

Since March 2020, COVID-19 has significantly impacted passport operations in the United States.

Previously, U.S. citizens could apply in person for a new passport or a passport renewal at a Passport Acceptance Facility. Most passports were issued within six to eight weeks, with options also available for expedited processing in urgent situations.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has significantly impacted normal passport operations. In light of those changes, USCIS has offered responses to common questions about changes to passport operations.

Is USCIS accepting regular passport applications?

USCIS is not processing regular passports at this time. Therefore, the agency asks individuals to wait until normal passport operations resume to apply for a non-urgent passport or passport renewal.

Will USCIS accommodate emergency situations?

USCIS will only process emergency passports for applicants with a qualified life-or-death emergency situation or who have urgent international travel needs. The agency provides additional information on the qualifying criteria for urgent cases.

Is expedited passport processing currently available?

No. USCIS temporarily suspended expedited passport processing services on March 19, 2020. Expedited processing will not resume until further notice.

Are applications submitted before March 19, 2020 subject to delays?

Yes. Even applications submitted before USCIS modified its passport application processes for COVID-19 are subject to delays due to limited staffing. Applications submitted before March 19th may still face delays of several months. USCIS will continue to accept mailed responses from applicants who received requests for additional information from the agency. However, those responses are also subject to lengthy processing delays.

Are application status updates available?

USCIS cannot provide status updates for passport and citizenship evidence documents until it resumes normal operations. Anyone who attempts to find an update on his or her application status may receive an application status message of “In Process” or “Not Found.” These status messages will not change until USCIS fully reopens for business. In the meantime, the agency will continue to accept applications, compile accompanying forms and supporting documentation, and process payments.

Is USCIS permitting in-person applications?

At this time, in-person application services are limited to emergency situations only. Individuals who need a passport should check with their local acceptance facility to determine if it is open or closed for application processing. People can schedule appointments online at USPS.com if they are applying at a post office.

Can passports be renewed by mail?

Anyone who does not have a life-or-death emergency should refrain from submitting a non-urgent passport application until USCIS resumes normal operations. USCIS also notes that passports with a 10-year validity period do not have be renewed before their expiration dates unless individuals plan to travel internationally. Most countries have a six-month validity for entry.

Which State Department passport processing agencies and centers are closed?

Currently, the State Department’s passport agencies in New York and Connecticut remain closed to the public.

USCIS will provide updates regarding passport applications as information becomes available. Individuals can also monitor the agency’s website for updates.

If you need assistance obtaining a passport or passport renewal, please contact your Pearl Immigration Team.