Passport Delays Are Unacceptable, Kerry Tells Secretary Rice
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) has joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues to express concern regarding extensive delays in processing passports for millions of Americans. Kerry sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, asking her to immediately develop a plan to deal with the backlog - which is estimated at nearly 2 million applications. The backlog was largely created by the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which requires U.S. citizens to have a passport when entering the United States while traveling from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean or Bermuda. The State Department has now had to suspend this requirement because of the backlogs; however, pending applications to travel abroad are still severely delayed.
Kerry said the situation is hurting families and threaten imminent travel plans because of the delays, even when people have applied well in advance and followed the rules, which has forced some to either make expensive changes to their plans at the last minute or pay the State Department extra fees to expedite their application. Kerry signed the letter to Rice outlining his concerns and asking that the State Department waive the expedited fees and additional shipping costs.
"I am very concerned with these delays and wonder why the State Department was so unprepared for the upswing in the number of passport applications," Kerry said. "It's unfair for our government to punish people with unreasonable delays and unforeseen costs when the problem lies with inefficiency at the State Department."