County clerk warns of passport processing slowdown

ELIZABETHTOWN If youre thinking of taking a trip overseas anytime soon, its a good idea to get your passport early. Essex County Clerk Joe Provoncha said that due to new border crossing regulations, the U.S. State Department Passport Services has been flooded with applications. Weve had an influx of people were seen an influx throughout New York State, said Provoncha. The national increase of passport requests has resulted in increasing the waiting time to get a passport from the traditional four to six weeks to 10 to 12 weeks. Even paying an additional expediting charge still requires a 4-week wait. Passports can be purchased at the county clerks office, which then sends the information to Boston to be processed by the Department of State. For adults getting their first passport, the routine processing fee is $97. The Essex County clerks office processed 231 passports in January and February, well above what it did last year. In 2006, the county processed 590 passports the entire year. And Provoncha doesnt expect the rush to subside anytime soon. Land travelers may be required to carry passports as soon as 2008, depending on timetables set by the Department of Homeland Security. I was surprised by the number of people who go across the border that seems to be the decider, said Provoncha. The clerks office is trying to help deal with the sudden increase of passport interest by visiting several neighboring towns. One such session is planned for April 17 at 1 p.m. in the town of Jay. Provoncha said people who may be going overseas need to think ahead. If you have a child who is studying abroad, or will spend any time abroad, one parent should always have a passport, said Provoncha.

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