Carlo Aalst applied for his passport online in January, but after six months of waiting, he had to show up in person in Washington, D.C. for help.
"The application is still there. They were actually able to confirm that it was active. But for some reason, nobody did anything about it," said Aalst.
And he's not alone. Americans nationwide have complained of missed trips because of the passport backlog. The delay forced Aalst to miss a planned trip to Italy in March, and now he's due to travel to Ecuador in two days to visit his ailing mother. He was able to be seen in person Friday, but that took a stroke of luck.
"I just had to Google how to actually find a live person that could help me with a password issue. And through Google, I was able to find a different number. And that's the number that actually worked for me," said Aalst.
Sen. Mark Warner says his office has seen a big increase in constituents needing help with passport delays.
"The effect of COVID drove down the revenues, drove down people wanting to renew. We're getting through this surge, but people shouldn't have to travel across the country to get their passport renewed, or wait in line three hours on a phone call," said Warner.
Warner stopped by the Washington, D.C. passport office to show some appreciation to employees who've been working overtime and weekends to try to address the backlog of applications.
In the coming months, Warner says three things can speed up processing times: Resuming online passport applications in January, hiring more staff to work at call centers, and increasing the fee for expedited passports.
"I frankly think the $60 expedited fee, which has been around for literally a dozen plus years, is a small bump up and that expedited fee would also provide additional resources," explained Warner.
But implementing those changes will take time, and Warner says Americans might not notice the difference till early next year.
The best advice for travelers in the next few months is to plan ahead.
Aalst was one of the lucky ones, and after a few hours, he had his new passport in hand. He's looking forward to seeing his mother for the first time in two years and sharing some good news.
"I do want to go see her because I just graduated from Harvard University two months ago, and I want to bring my diploma to give to her," Aalst said.
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