The State Department is ramping up its passport processing, three months after it drastically reduced operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The department reduced operations in March and only had enough staff to process passports in life or death situations, as well as for members of the Armed Forces and health care worker applicants.
But now the department has started Phase 1 of reopening, which allows staffing to increase dependent on regional conditions, and more staff began returning on June 3, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch told reporters Friday.
Risch said that the State Department is aggressively increasing processing capability and that as states reopen across the country, more staff will return.
As of Thursday, more than half of staff had returned, meaning the agency can now process several hundred thousand applications a week.
But there is a backlog, with oldest applications now going back to February, meaning that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty -- and that someone who applies now for a routine passport will have to wait at least eight weeks to have that fulfilled.
Officials are now working on the backlog and hope to have it cleared in six to eight weeks.
The State Department has 1.7 million applications, slightly higher than what it processes every month. It normally processes about 18 million in a normal year.