U.S. stops issuing passports except in emergencies

Mary Forgione
·2 min read
U.S. passport
Passport services are being temporarily suspended because of the pandemic. (Los Angeles Times)

The U.S. State Department won't be processing new passports and renewals except for emergency cases because of the coronavirus pandemic, the agency's website said.

"Due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, effective March 20, 2020, we are only able to offer service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours," said a March 27 online statement.

Americans are being asked to wait to apply or renew until the agency resumes "normal operations." If you do apply in person or renew by mail right now, you can expect "significant delays receiving their passports and citizenship evidence documents," according to the State Department.

Passport applications received on or before March 19 will be processed. Travelers who paid extra for expedited service can expect to receive their passport in the next two to three weeks. Others with standard service should expect delays.

If you applied in-person at a passport agency or center before March 19, the agency will contact you about getting your passport.

Emergency cases include people who need to travel because of "serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g. parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc.) that require you to travel outside the U.S." within three days, the agency's website said.

Applicants for emergency passports will need to bring an application with supporting documents, proof of the emergency (death certificate or letter from a medical professional or hospital) and a reservation and/or ticket that you plan to travel on. Call the National Passport Information Center at (877) 487-2778 for more information.

The agency issued a Level 4 global health advisory March 31 telling Americans to avoid all international travel because of the global impact of the outbreak. "In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period," it said.