At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, criticized the State Department over the time it is taking for Americans to get their passports, and renewed his call for in-person passport services in Salt Lake City.
According to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office, it is taking up to 13 weeks to get a passport through a routine application, and up to nine weeks for an expedited request.
Given the updates in technology available, Romney said the amount of time it takes to get a passport is “unreasonable.”
Romney said Utah was a “passport service desert” with few nearby options for in-person services, even though it is one of the fastest-growing states in the country, and despite the need because of “thousands of missionaries traveling abroad every year from Salt Lake City.”
“We have 200 people right now that are working through my office for emergency help,” he said. “We have four people in our office that are doing nothing besides emergency passport requests.”
Rena Bitter, assistant secretary for consular affairs at the State Department, told Romney her department was working on hiring more employees who could help process passport applications.
“Every passport’s a national security decision, and bringing folks on in these positions — hiring, training, clearing, and making sure that they are suitable to have this really challenging job with a great deal of responsibility does take time,” she said.
Romney has raised the issue of the need for additional passport services in Utah several times, including through legislation signed in December and through a letter sent in April to the State Department signed by the entire Utah congressional delegation.
At the hearing Wednesday, Romney also raised the issue of countries who deny entry to U.S. citizens whose passports expire in six months.
“I think every American I know is shocked to find out that when your passport expires in six months, that you can’t leave, that you can’t leave the country,” he said.
He asked Bitter to do more to make Americans aware of these travel restrictions.