WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) announced she led 194 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives asking the Department of State to account for the dramatic delays in processing passport applications. The letter is co-led by Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Maria Salazar (FL-27), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-At Large), and Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37). The letter is also signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (NY-05), and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (TX-10).
In a letter to Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Rita Bitter, the members posed 20 questions relating to how many passport applications the State Department has received and processed, how the State Department will clear the backlog of passport applications, and asks for clarity on the State Department’s processing procedures.
The members write in part:
“These processing delays and subsequent influx of requests to Congressional offices cause added stress for our constituents around long-planned travel and sometimes require them to pay additional money for expedited processing and/or overnight shipping fees they otherwise would not have pursued. Meanwhile, Congressional offices are having to dedicate additional time and resources that could be devoted to other constituent service demands.
“We understand that passport processing challenges have coincided with the beta-test rollout of the Online Passport Renewal (OPR) system. We applaud the State Department’s efforts to streamline and improve response timing for our constituents seeking to renew their passports online, but questions remain regarding how the OPR system has been implemented, how this system was communicated to our constituents, and the level of oversight it has received from the State Department.
“Finally, we ask that the State Department improve its internal communications among passport agencies, as well as external communications to Congressional offices, and most importantly, to our constituents, about efficiently navigating passport processing challenges. Moreover, our constituents deserve clearer communication about current estimated turnaround times, both at the application stage and while their application is in process, if their estimated receipt time changes. In addition, our Congressional offices and our constituents need to receive the same information and guidance about what services are and are not available. Congressional offices are repeatedly experiencing instances where our constituents report that State’s Passport Offices gave constituents expectations of our Congressional Offices’ ability to assist them that conflicted with the guidance that State has provided to our Offices, such as the timelines we must follow in order to submit appointment requests.”
Click here for the text of the letter.
Congresswoman Nikema Williams proudly serves Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District on the exclusive Financial Services Committee. She is a champion of voting rights and builds on the Fifth District’s legacy as the cradle of the civil rights movement. Congresswoman Williams is also committed to closing the racial wealth gap and ensuring the promise of America for all–regardless of your ZIP code or bank account.