Carter, Salazar unveil bipartisan bill to modernize U.S. passport system

U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) on Aug. 18 offered a bipartisan bill that would address passport processing delays at the U.S. State Department, which is experiencing a post-pandemic travel surge.

“Despite their best efforts, the State Department is failing to meet the American people’s passport needs. After a series of meetings, congressional hearings, and oversight letters, it is clear that fundamental reform is necessary to ensure that passport applicants have the communication, certainty, and timeliness they deserve,” Rep. Carter said. “This bill accomplishes this goal by giving the State Department necessary resources and strengthening oversight of this vital responsibility.”

Rep. Carter sponsored the Passport Modernization Act, H.R. 5233, alongside 10 original cosponsors, including Rep. Salazar and U.S. Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) to increase State Department staff, update the online passport system, and ramp up congressional oversight, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“Hundreds of my constituents contact my office every day with the same issue: it takes way too long to get a new passport,” said Rep. Salazar. “This bill will bring these wait times down immediately by hiring new staff, modernizing our system, and getting the State Department back on track.”

If enacted, H.R. 5233 would provide special hiring authority to the Secretary of State to hire Passport and Visa Examining Series for three years, the summary says.

Additionally, the bill would require the secretary to provide quarterly reports on processing times, delays, and methods that are being used to eradicate the backlog and modernize the online passport filing system, while the Government Accountability Office would be required to conduct a report on National Passport Information Center operations, states the summary.

H.R. 5233 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.