McCaul seeks end to State Dept. backlog of passport requests

The U.S. State Department is struggling to efficiently issue passports to Americans and currently is crippled by a backlog of requests, a situation that has left many citizens vulnerable to fraud via private brokers, according to U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX).

“Bad actors are allegedly preying on Americans in need of government travel documents, a situation we find unacceptable,” wrote Rep. McCaul and a colleague in an Aug. 31 letter sent to Bureau of Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary Rena Bitter.

Their constituents have reportedly been waiting anywhere from seven to 13 weeks to secure a passport, according to the letter, which is also signed by U.S. Rep. Michael Lawler (R-NY).

“Unfortunately, the department’s failure to process applications in a timely manner has led some desperate applicants to turn to private brokers, who – based on information provided by constituents – are allegedly stockpiling and selling appointments for urgent and emergency travel, often at exorbitant prices… robbing individuals of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars,” they wrote. 

Rep. McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Lawler wrote that the State Department must prevent bad actors from gaming the system by coordinating with law enforcement entities to investigate whether and to what extent they are violating state or federal law in their creation of a quasi-black market for passports.

“We recognize it can take time for law enforcement to identify all instances of wrongdoing and gather all necessary information, but we call on the department to expedite its efforts to ensure there are no fraudulent or other illegal activities occurring within the passport application process, and that wrongdoers are punished to the fullest extent of the law,” they wrote.

The Republicans also requested that the department continue to focus its efforts on quickly rooting out and preventing malfeasance in the passport application process. 

“It is paramount that the integrity of this process is maintained, and we trust that your department will take the necessary steps to ensure this,” they wrote.