Let’s say you’re getting ready to fly to Europe for that trip you put off because of the pandemic. You’re carefully packing shirts and a hat and that travel book you’ve flipped through over and over again.
You turn to see that Fido has your passport in his mouth. He’s been chewing on it for a while now. It’s ruined.
What are you going to do?
If you are a Utahn, your best option may be to get in the car and drive. The closest passport office with same-day service is in Aurora, Colo., which is eight hours from downtown Salt Lake City.
Sen. Mitt Romney’s office hears from Utahns who need to get a passport quickly and are not sure the best way to do it. He has a solution: Have the federal government create a new passport agency and place it in Utah.
This past week, he sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to plead his case.
“Today, residents throughout the Western mountain region of the United States, including Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, must renew their passports by mail or travel significant distances to neighboring states to access the nearest passport offices,” Romney wrote. “Consequently, same-day, in-person service is essentially impossible for millions of Americans in these states.”
The United States has 27 passport agencies, most of which require appointments and are open until 3 p.m. on workdays. Beyond the one in Colorado, there’s an office in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, and another in Tucson, Ariz.
Romney argues that adding an office in Utah would be helpful for a growing state that attracts tourists and sends religious missionaries throughout the world.
“Utah is rapidly expanding as a center for global commerce and tourism, is home to thousands of Latter-day Saints who annually embark on worldwide religious missions, and like, much of the Western mountain region, has a rapidly growing population,” he wrote in his letter.
As it stands, most Utahns get their passport through the mail, which as of now, has a standard processing time of 10 to 12 weeks. For an additional $60 fee, people can get their passports in four to six weeks.
Utahns received more than 120,000 passports in the past year, and that’s a year when travel was largely curtailed by the pandemic. In the past four years, the state’s residents have received more than 674,000 passports.
This isn’t the first time Romney has weighed in on this topic. He pressed Blinken during the confirmation process, and the new secretary promised to review passports services to make sure the Bureau of Consular Affairs could handle high demand.
Romney also was part of a group of senators who complained to the Trump administration about a backlog of passport applications in 2020.
The federal government had put a freeze on reviewing passport applications as part of coronavirus-related shutdowns. By June, there was a backlog of 1.6 million applications. Romney signed onto a letter urging the Trump administration to address that backlog, which has now been worked through.
His concern now is for those Utahns who contact his office asking how to get that passport in a hurry. They have a plane to catch.