Vermont Passport Office Ends Walk-In Service After Being Inundated With Customers

Vermont's U.S. Passport Agency office ended its no-appointment, walk-in service on Thursday after the office was inundated with customers amid a backlog of 1.5 million requests, according to the State Department.

Dozens of people had arrived at the office in St. Albans after hearing the Passport Agency was offering appointments slots from no-shows to last-minute customers, the State Department said in a statement. More than 20 people, including children, had been waiting outside the office on Thursday despite the policy change, the Associated Press reported.

Dina Singh and her husband took their 5-year-old daughter as they drove overnight from New York in an attempt to get the paperwork, as many have struggled to schedule appointments with other offices.

"I think it's unfair that you're going to change your policy overnight and not notify anybody," Singh said.

The State Department said the walk-in appointments were discontinued "due to unintended safety and security consequences."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Vermont Passport Office
People wait in line outside the U.S. Passport Agency on July 15, 2021, in St. Albans, Vermont. People from across the Northeast descended on the office, one of the few locations where people can get their travel documents without an appointment, so the agency stopped holding walk-in appointments. Lisa Rathke/AP Photo

Singh said her family is supposed to fly out on Friday for a trip with other relatives, including grandparents, to St. Martin and had been trying for weeks to get an appointment in New York without success.

On Wednesday, the State Department said that the wait for a passport is now between 12 weeks and 18 weeks, even if people pay for expedited processing. That's because of ripple effects from the coronavirus pandemic that caused extreme disruptions to the process at domestic issuance facilities and overseas embassies and consulates.

Currently, the State Department is accepting appointments at the Vermont Passport Agency and other public passport agencies for life-or-death emergencies. A limited number of appointments for urgent, non-life-or-death travel within 72 hours can be made online.

Some people outside the Vermont office Thursday, who had already booked overseas flights, said they'd waited on hold on the phone for hours and had been unable to get those appointments. Others said they needed passports to visit family, sick relatives or attend relatives' weddings.

The State Department said it is increasing its staffing throughout the United States after staff reductions implemented at the start of the pandemic, but there is still a backlog of 1.5 million to 2 million passport requests. Applications submitted now probably will not be processed until the fall, the department said.

"We really encourage folks to apply for or renew their passport at least six months ahead of when you'll need one to avoid any of those last-minute problems," Rachel Arndt, deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services, said Wednesday.