By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Michelle Hart’s initial spring break plans to Mexico didn’t take into consideration a three week wait just to make an appointment to apply for a passport…which then takes another 6 or more weeks to be completed.
“Well we did go the Post Office and we learned that you have to have an appointment now.” the Bend resident said Friday. “So when we went to the Post Office we learned that they were booked 3 weeks out. To be able to get a passport in time for Spring Break…that was a non negotiable.”
County Clerks offices in Central Oregon have become busier than usual thanks to an influx of people applying for passports.
It’s been a steady increase over the last five years, but it’s spiking this year thanks to a number of issues, namely the need for all commercial air travelers to have either a passport or a new Real ID, which the DMV won’t start issuing until July.
Last month alone, the Deschutes County Clerk’s office processed more than 500 passports applications; which is more than all the passports they processed in 2012.
In Crook County, January’s applications have more than doubled what they saw in December.
“We are strongly considering changing from a no appointment necessary to by appointment only passport acceptance program,” said Crook County Clerk Cheryl Seely. “If we do, we will make sure to announce it 4 weeks in advance. Knowing the busy year we have ahead with the May Primary Election, November General Election and the amount of land transactions that are taking place, our office has been very busy and we would like to accommodate as many folks as we can without having them have to wait very long in our lobby.”
All the people we spoke with today at the Deschutes County Clerk’s Office were updating passports for travel during Spring Break in March. Among those needing passports were the Nealy family of Bend including their youngest, baby Felicity.
“They’ve been great. It’s actually that we needed to have our pictures a little clearer so we have to go back and get those changed out but that wasn’t their fault,” said Truett Nealy of Bend.
Properly sized and exposed passport photos are one of the most common stumbling blocks in completing passport applications.
“It depends on how many are in the family and how organized you are. For those people who are very well organized it can be a half hour to 45 minutes for a family.” said Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship. “For those who have to make multiple trips because they forgot things, they have to make multiple trips.”
Clerks offices in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties all report increased demand for passports. January, February and March are consistently their busiest months.
“We had to rush our passports.” Hart said. “Hopefully, before March 21, they’ll be here.”