When you need your passport renewed, and you have travel within 72 hours, it’s possible to get emergency expedited service. However the State Department has taken the ability to schedule this offline.
We have temporarily removed the online last-minute appointment booking system to ensure our very limited, last-minute in-person passport appointments at one of our agencies or centers go to applicants who need them for urgent travel.
Currently, the only way to schedule an appointment is to call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 (TDD/TTY 1-888-874-7793) from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
The State Department did this because people are using bots to schedule these appointments and then sell them.
While passport renewal turnaround times have improved in the past few months, however even paying an expedite fee and you’re looking at about 3 months (although sometimes it’s ‘just’ 6 weeks). That means more people find themselves needing a passport on an emergency basis, and there aren’t enough appointments for those. The grey market value of an appointment is hundreds of dollars.
There’s a general sense that grabbing appointments you don’t need and selling them is ‘scummy’ but it,
- Does at least ration appointments based on who is willing to pay, versus who spends the most time refreshing the State Department website. There’s likely a loose correlation between willingness to pay and need to travel. At a minimum it privileges limited business travel, which is good for airlines and growth of airline schedules.
- But if there’s something scummy here, it’s primarily the inability of the U.S. government to fulfill its basic obligations. If passports are necessary to exercise the right to travel, then the government needs to offer a reasonable process to obtain one. Waiting three months paying extra is not acceptable.
- The State Department ought to be able to handle the problem of bots, if their IT isn’t sufficient for that then it’s scary they’re handling international diplomacy in a world of nation state hacking.
- And they should clearly have been scaling up capacity – not just now, but over the last year – to handle both regular processing and last minute appointments to meet demand.
Taking the system offline addresses the immediate symptom of bots and reselling but does little to help citizens who actually need to get passports.