Lawmakers are demanding answers on the backlog of American passport applications – as well as the Online Passport Renewal (OPR) system – being processed by the Department of State in a recent letter to Rita Bitter, assistant secretary for consular affairs at the State Department.

The letter, signed by over 200 lawmakers, asks the department for a progress update on recent passport issues.

“Our constituents rely on the efficient and predictable provision of government services to make decisions and plan their lives. We know that the State Department can face unexpected challenges just like any large institution, but when those challenges persist, our constituents deserve explanations, communication, and recompense,” the letter says.

Some of the challenges that the department has been facing include working on fully implementing a beta version of its Online Passport Renewal (OPR) system.

“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,” the letter says.

According to the letter, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted last month that the department had been receiving about 500,000 applications for passports weekly, which is an increase of 30 to 40 percent from the year prior.

In the letter, the lawmakers ask the department to inform them in detail on some of the following areas:

  • How many passports still need to be processed;
  • How is the State Department measuring the progress of the OPR system;
  • Has the State Department identified the problems with how different passport offices share information about the status of an applicant’s passport; and
  • How can Congress or specific resources help to make this process better?

“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,” the letter says.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.