“We planned our trip in February and applied for passports in March and online they give you a website where you can check for your passport,” says Deborah Markajani who was planning a trip to the Dominican Republic.
Unfortunately, Deborah came up short when she looked for her records of filing.
“Mine was showing no records found for weeks and weeks and then it got into months. I was on the one-800 number constantly calling them.”
Deborah came close to missing her trip as a result of the passport processing delay.
“We got our passports two days before our trip,” says Deborah, “we would never have been able to go because once we got there, and we realized how important it was that we did have a our passport.”
Since May, hundreds of residents in Rochester have been stuck in the passport backlog.
“It's a serious issue, it's an issue that shouldn't happen. We've moved in, in a bi-partisan way, to fix it but unfortunately many people right now have butterflies in their stomachs right now,” says Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York).
Schumer has introduced legislation which has passed both the Senate and most recently, the House of Representatives, that would help ease the problem. The legislation increases the number of employees in passport processing, even taking some temporarily out of retirement.
“The 300 workers would nearly double the number of workers in the passport office, they'll start with the people who've been waiting the longest.”
Currently, nearly one million passport applications are arriving at the State Department each month. The overflow and lack of staffing has caused delays of up to six weeks beyond the normal processing time during peak travel season, leaving Rochester residents like Deborah waiting for months.
“If they haven't applied for one, they need to right away and if they're waiting, get help.”
“The day the President signs it, the next day people will be going back to work,” says Schumer who predicts much of the problem will be eased by Labor Day if the President signs the bill into law.
According to the State Department, applications and renewals for passports from October 2006 to March 2007 rose 44% over the same period in 2005-2006. The State Department is warning travelers to keep in mind passport processing will take 10-12 weeks rather than the previous six weeks and expedited processing could take two to three weeks instead of two weeks. The State Department has agreed to refund the $60 passport expedite fee for all New Yorkers who paid the fee and have still not received their passports in an expedited manner.