US State Department Halts Passport Issuing Amid Coronavirus Pandemic (Video)
The U.S. Department of State has ceased issuing passports except for “life-or-death emergencies” while coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country.
The new directive, which went into effect in March, was implemented “due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19,” according to the notice.
Going forward, the State Department will make an exception for “immediate international travel within 72 hours” in life-or-death situations, including serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in the immediate family. In that case, applicants would need their full application, proof of the emergency like a signed letter from a hospital or a death certificate (translated into English) and proof of their itinerary or ticket.
To make one of these appointments, applicants need to call the National Passport Information Center at (877) 487-2778 or call (202) 647-4000 outside of business hours.
Additionally, the State Department said it would continue to fulfill requests for people who had applied for an expedited passport anytime before March 20.
It is not immediately clear when the State Department would start taking applications again.
The guidance comes as the agency issued a Level 4 global advisory, telling Americans they should “avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.” The notice also suggested citizens who live abroad should return to the U.S. “unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”
“We remain steadfast and committed to getting you all back,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at a briefing earlier this week. “We do not know in some countries how long the continued commercial flights may continue to operate. We can’t guarantee the U.S. Government’s ability to arrange chartered flights indefinitely where commercial options no longer exist. I urge Americans to register with their nearest embassy... and work your way back here. Americans abroad who wish to return home should do so immediately and make arrangements to accomplish that.”
There have been efforts to bring these stranded citizens home as countries have closed their borders and cut flights, including United Airlines, which has flown thousands of Americans back on repatriation flights.
The new policy also comes as the deadline for Real ID driver’s licenses and ID cards was postponed as the application requires an in-person visit to the DMV.