PARAMUS, NJ (Bergen County) — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Monday highlighted the massive, months-long backlog of 1.5 million to 2 million passport applications and renewals currently holding up international travel for millions of Americans, including families in Northern New Jersey.
According to the U.S. State Department, passport service by mail can now take up to 18 weeks, compared to six to eight weeks prior to the pandemic. Expedited service can now take 12 weeks, up from four to six weeks before the pandemic. In a letter today, Gottheimer urged the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs take critical measures to immediately reduce the passport backlog, expand in-person renewals, expedite surge staffing, address additional delays in the process, such as with U.S. Postal Service shipping, and to work with Congress to make additional improvements.
Gottheimer and his constituent services team have received several hundred passport inquiries from North Jersey residents. Gottheimer’s office has already helped and closed nearly 200 cases since the spring, but, unfortunately, due to the backlogs, not everyone has been able to get a passport in time.
“Hundreds of local families are rightly frustrated and outraged,” Gottheimer said. “For far too many, this unprecedented passport backlog is costing families not only their vacations, but, in some cases, thousands of dollars in cancelled trips. I’m here today to strongly urge the State Department to take urgent measures to immediately reduce the passport backlog and expand in-person renewals, and to highlight how our congressional office is helping and can help North Jersey families.”
Gottheimer was joined by New Milford resident Cheryl Levy, who had applied for a passport three months prior to a July anniversary trip abroad. With the help of Gottheimer’s constituent services team, Ms. Levy was able to get her passport the day before her departure.
Gottheimer was also joined today by Upper Saddle River residents Dr. Sanjeev Patel and Dr. Christine Gerula, who had applied to replace their daughter’s passport two months prior to a family trip abroad. Despite waiting two months, calling passport agents daily for updates — waiting on hold for hours each time, and a trip to a regional passport facility in Connecticut where they waited in line and were eventually turned away, they had to cancel their trip and incur travel charges.
According to a recent briefing with the National Passport Center, there is not a single in-person appointment available nationwide for the next three weeks.