ASTA Pushes for Swift Resumption of US Passport Processing

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) today issued an appeal to the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs calling for the swift resumption of the U.S. passport processing system, which became suspended on March 19, 2020, except in the case of “life-and-death emergencies,” amid many COVID-19 operational shutdowns.

Zane Kerby, ASTA President and CEO, wrote in a letter to Assistant Secretary of State, Carl Risch: “Over the past few weeks we have been contacted by a number of members whose clients’ plans to travel internationally in late 2020 and 2021 are at risk of being negatively impacted by their inability to apply for or renew their passports. Many of these clients applied for passport renewals before the pandemic reached full force and have been unable to secure any information from the Department about the status of their applications.”

Writing on behalf of the organization’s 14,000 business members, their clients and the traveling public, he affirmed that ASTA is keenly aware of the devastating blow that the COVID-19 pandemic has landed upon the global travel industry, as well as the solid rationale behind the State Department’s standing Level 4 advisory against U.S. citizens traveling abroad at this time.

However, Kerby continued, “That said, we are hopeful that international travel will resume in the near future, though certainly in a limited fashion and so long as the appropriate public health officials deem it safe. As it does so, the need for a resumption of normal or close-to-normal passport processing will grow in importance.”

A return to normalcy for the travel and tourism industries, Kerby reflected, is sure to be accomplished in a slow, deliberate fashion, and will be largely dependent upon shifts in government policy both domestically and abroad.

He asserted, “Resuming passport processing operations may be a small part of this process, but it is a critical and central one,” and continued, “We urge you to make the restoring of passport processing operations a priority as you work toward the safe resumption of international travel.”

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