Need a passport for traveling during the pandemic? Here's why officials say plan ahead

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you have travel plans that include getting a new passport or renewing the one you have, you need to know that what was once a pretty straightforward process has been changed by the pandemic.

Big plans to celebrate a friend's birthday in Mexico sent Fremont's Shirley Ehrlich in search of a new passport.

"I went on April 30 to the post office, I had all of my forms and documentations ready to go and she said I should get it the first week of August," she told 7 On Your Side.

That week has come and gone - and as did the first week of September. Shirley was getting concerned, then this past Thursday her passport arrived in the mail.

Brentwood's Stephanie Peddy applied for a passport for her daughter. It took a while, too.

"It probably took March, April, May, June, about five months," she said. "It came mid-July, mid-to-end July, so probably four and a half months."

RELATED: COVID-19 new normal: Travelers may need health certificate -- here's what could change

The pandemic is slowing the processing of passports. Andres Rodriguez is with the State Department's passport services.

"Pre-COVID-19, processing time was six to eight weeks," he says, "but on average, approximately 10 weeks right now for routine service, but that is not guaranteed."

The San Francisco passport Agency was closed to the public for a while, but has now reopened. However, that doesn't mean you can just walk in like pre-COVID-19 days. You must have an appointment and can only get one if there is an emergency and tight timeline.

Rodriguez says, "Agencies to varying degrees are able to issue passports for life and death emergencies only, and if they are traveling within three days."

Let's underline that "three days" - because pre-pademic, it was two weeks.

Expedited service, where you pay a premium and get your passport quicker, is not being offered. So if you're traveling internationally, plan ahead.

RELATED: Future of travel: Here's what to expect the next time you hop on a flight

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.


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