U.S. Suspends Border Rules to Ease Passport Crunch

Plagued with backlog of passport applications, government eases passport mandates

"I said, 'You need to take action. This is completely screwed up'," she said. "To say people must have a passport to travel and not give people a passport is right up there in the stupid column."

Wilson said her office took more than 500 calls in May alone from constituents struggling to get passports and the problem has spread from border states to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas and Colorado.

Between March and May of this year, the department issued more than 4.5 million passports, a 60 percent increase over the same period in 2006, but millions more applications are waiting to be processed, according to consular affairs officials.

The demand is such that the State Department has warned applicants to allow as long as 12 weeks for their passports to be issued and up to three weeks for expedited processing at an extra fee. Previously, the maximum wait was six weeks and two weeks, respectively.

In the meantime, would-be foreign travelers stew and fret.

Wendy Berry of Franklin of West Virginia, applied in March for a passport for her 18-year-old son, Jonathan. But the day he was to leave to visit his sister in Peru, his passport had not come.

"There are two things I wish they would do," she said of the government. "The only really responsible party is the passport office. I wish they would be held accountable. And I wish they would staff more people. The whole system is ready to collapse."


Associated Press writer Jennifer Talhelm contributed to this report.