State department temporarily shuts down online booking system for passport appointments, adding frustration to post-pandemic backlog

The State Department has temporarily shut down its online system for booking appointments.
The State Department has temporarily shut down its online system for booking appointments.(Gray News)
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 9:16 PM EDT
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There are more problems for Americans trying to get a passport.

The State Department has temporarily shut down its online system for booking appointments.

It’s the latest frustration in an ongoing saga for people who want to travel, CBS2′s Andrea Grymes reported Friday.

“It’s been pretty bad. I’ve been calling them for weeks,” said Jose Geronimo of NewarkNew Jersey.

Geronimo said it’s been a nightmare trying to get a passport appointment so he can visit his dying grandmother in the Dominican Republic.

“My grandmother, she has COVID. So she’s on her death bed. So we’re all trying to get there, and it’s been really hard,” he told Grymes.

Geronimo finally snagged an opening at a State Department passport office in Greenwich Village, where the line was full of frustrated people.

The Klement family from East NorthportLong Island applied for passports in April and they still haven’t gotten them.

“I started calling about two weeks ago. I was on hold for hours and hours. I spoke, there’s no appointments available. Vermont, D.C., Boston. I tried everywhere,” said Alison Klement.

Calling is now the only way to get in at the State Department’s 26 passport agencies and centers.

The department announced it “temporarily disabled the online booking system for urgent travel appointments,” because third parties were taking the coveted slots and selling them.

The department said it wants to make sure limited appointments go to those who need them most, and that they’ve added staff to deal with call volume.

“You cannot get through, you know. It’s no good,” said Kenny Seng of Queens.

It’s the latest development as the feds try to process a huge backlog of post-pandemic passport applications.

Last weekend, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer called for more emergency personnel to help.

The State Department expects to be back to 97% of its workforce by mid-August, which will allow them to process an additional 100,000 applications per month.

Until then, a spokesperson said, the wait times for a new passport or renewal will remain 12 to 18 weeks.

The change to the online booking system does not impact the booking process at locations like post offices, libraries and other government offices.

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