Matheson Seeks Answers on Passport Delays
Congressman Jim Matheson said the backlog in processing passport applications is getting worse and in a letter to the Secretary of State he asked what specific actions are planned to address the problems.
Matheson said despite his staff's best efforts to help constituents track down their passports, an increasing number of Utahns are failing to receive their documents and are missing pre-paid trips as a result.
"The Department has issued several statements indicating that it has regained control of the situation, but the growing numbers of phone calls and complaints from our constituents indicates otherwise," Matheson wrote. "During the two weeks before and after Memorial Day, my office fielded over seventy requests for assistance with passports."
Matheson says before the new rules went into effect in January, his office normally handled less than one inquiry a month.
Matheson said the biggest frustration is the misinformation about expected wait times.
"If processing will take months, not weeks, I would like to alert my constituents that they must plan accordingly," Matheson wrote.
Matheson said he welcomes news that the White House may waive new travel restrictions this summer to ease the passport backlog. That waiver would apply to those planning to travel by air to and from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. To regain entry to the U.S. through Sept. 30th, these Western Hemisphere travelers would have to provide only photo ID, such as a driver's license and proof that a passport application has been submitted.
However, Matheson warned that if Phase II of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative begins in January 2008 as planned-and the current processing problems are not corrected-the situation is guaranteed to get worse.