In a letter to Assistant Secretary of State Carl Risch, addressed on Friday, American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) president and CEO Zane Kerby calls for the swift resumption of the U.S. passport processing system, which has been suspended for all but "life-and-death emergencies" since March 19.
“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,” Kerby says in the letter. “As it does so, the need for a resumption of normal or close-to-normal passport processing will grow in importance. 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.”
He adds that many of the advisors’ clients applied for passport renewals before the pandemic “reached full force” and have been unable to secure any information from the State Department about the status of their applications.
“For the travel industry, a return to normalcy will be a slow and deliberate process, heavily influenced by government policy both here and abroad, and we at ASTA are committed to working toward that end with those governments, our members and the broader travel ecosystem in a way that puts the safety and health of U.S. citizens at its center,” Kerby says. “Resuming passport processing operations may be a small part of this process, but it is a critical and central one … as such, while we recognize the many challenges COVID-19 poses to the Department, we urge you to make the restoring of passport processing operations a priority as you work toward the safe resumption of international travel.”