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YUBA CITY, Calif. – Jon Poganski was worried he wasn’t going to make it to Toronto, Canada, to help his team in a race car series. He faced the challenge of trying to get a passport, though he said the process of applying for one was the easy part.
Finding an appointment to apply for one, on the other hand, wasn’t so easy.
Poganski couldn’t find a passport acceptance center. That’s because most places are completely booked with no available appointment windows.
In Northern California, some locations have no available appointments until the middle of September.
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The United States Postal Service passport acceptance facility accepts walk-ins for the service, but nearly every appointment was booked for the next 45 days.
“Because of the surge in demand for passports, we are seeing a large volume of requests for passport appointments,” a USPS spokesperson.
This leads to situations like Poganski’s. Travelers may not be able to make scheduled travel due to the demand.
“It did take a little time to plan it,” Poganski said, adding he had to drive more than an hour to find an acceptance facility that was able to accept his passport application.
The Sutter County clerk-recorder’s office is one of the few passport acceptance facilities in Northern California that only accepts walk-ins and doesn’t schedule appointments.
“There was a time when the passport agency wasn’t accepting any applications, so we’ve got that backlog of folks wanting to get an application,” Clerk-Recorder Donna Johnston said.
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Johnston said customers begin to line up early in the morning before the office even opens to make sure they can submit their passport applications. The acceptance center will then send the applications to the State Department for processing.
“I got a co-worker to come in early, so I could be here when they opened at 7,” Poganski said. Johnston said they occasionally have travelers to the office from out of state to submit applications.
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“Having travel restrictions eased up has increased the number of people coming in as well,” Johnston said.
State Department data shows a sharp decline in passports issued during the pandemic in 2020.
Just under 12 million passports were issued in 2020, compared to the more than 20 million in 2019. In 2021, more than 15 million passports were issued.
“To avoid delays and potential travel disruptions, U.S. citizens and nationals should apply as early as they can for a new passport,” a State Department spokesperson said.
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Due to the lack of appointments and factoring in the processing times, it could take months to get a passport.
The current processing time for a passport is 8-11 weeks for routine service and 5-7 weeks for expedited service. These time frames represent waits after applications arrive at a passport agency.