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Q: What do Iowans need to know about obtaining or renewing passports?



A: The U.S. Department of State processes passports for American citizens. In recent months, the federal agency is experiencing significant backlog as global travel picks up since COVID-19 effectively shut down international travel. Like many Americans, Iowans are getting frustrated with delays and disruptions to their travel plans while they wait for passports to be processed. The U.S. Department of State is receiving approximately 310,000 passport applications weekly, a dramatic increase contributing to the backlog. Even if Iowans don’t have international travel plans, I advise people to check the expiration date on their passports. Get the renewal process started sooner, rather than later. As always, my six state offices are available to assist Iowa families who have passport questions or who are concerned about travel disruptions because of an expired or delayed passport.


Q: Who needs a passport to travel?


A: U.S. passports are issued by the U.S. Department of State. U.S. citizens need a passport for overseas travel. If considering a trip outside the country, be sure to check every family member’s passport expiration date before booking flights and making travel arrangements. Don’t forget, infants also require a valid passport to travel abroad. Passports for those 16 and younger are valid for only five years and require the parents or guardians to accompany the minor when making application at a Passport Acceptance Facility. Find a local passport acceptance facility here. Most often, eligible adults may renew passports by mail with form DS-82.  Check U.S. Passports (state.gov) to learn which documents and forms are needed to obtain, renew or replace a passport. Keep in mind certain countries will not allow entry if a traveler’s passport is set to expire within six months of entering the country, even if one’s itinerary has the traveler returning before the passport expires.


Q: What tips do you give Iowans applying for a passport?  


A: Troubleshoot unnecessary delays by making sure all supporting documentation is accurate and complete. It’s important to follow instructions to a tee. Notably, any questions about citizenship, missing ID documents, fees or photos will require even more processing time. Passport renewal applications require different documents than new passport applications. New applications require certified identification documents. Note any supporting documentation will be returned in a separate mailer after the passport has been approved and mailed to the applicant. For peace of mind, applicants may wish to pay for additional mail tracking services. As soon as a passport is received, be sure to sign it immediately. And always take precautions to protect passports from damage, theft and loss, at home and while traveling.


Q: How long is the turnaround time for renewing a passport?


A: The U.S. Department of State reports routine service may take up to 18 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. Due to the surge in passport applications, the time frame may extend even longer. To learn the current processing times of passport applications, check online here Application Status (state.gov). Applicants may pay an additional $60 to expedite service and shorten the processing time. In addition, an applicant may pay an additional fee for overnight return delivery. Check here to learn about additional services and fees.


Q:  How can Iowans check the status of an passport application?


A: While an application is pending, the U.S. Department of State encourages applicants to enroll and check their application status here U.S. Passport Application Status (state.gov). This 24/7 online tool provides the same information as a customer service representative at a call center and takes much less time than making a call. Should an unexpected emergency arise, the U.S. Department of State may be able to provide same day service at one of its passport facilities. This requires an appointment and proof that one’s situation qualifies for immediate assistance. To request such an appointment, learn more here Life-or-Death Emergencies (state.gov).


My Senate offices are glad to provide guidance and assistance to Iowans encountering delays with their passport applications. To assist you, a consent form is required to look into your case. Fill out and submit the online form here Help With Federal Agencies | Senator Chuck Grassley (senate.gov). I highly recommend Iowans plan well ahead to avoid problems should travel emergencies arise or passport processing delays ruin a dream vacation. Although my office can’t guarantee a desired outcome, we stand ready to help Iowans who are in dire straits waiting on their passport.

Author: Charles Grassley

Chuck Grassley of New Hartford has represented Iowa in the United States Senate since 1980.


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