State Department halts passport services for travelers unless it’s a family emergency

, USA TODAY
Published 1:05 p.m. ET April 1, 2020 | Updated 10:35 p.m. ET April 1, 2020

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The State Department has told Americans not to travel abroad at all, which is the strongest U.S. alert yet.

USA TODAY

In an effort to the slow the spread of coronavirus, the U.S. Department of State has temporarily halted its passport services with the exception of travelers who have a “qualified life-or-death emergency.”

The reduced services went into effect March 20 after the department raised a global travel advisory warning Americans not to leave the country

Citizens who qualify for a passport must have a family emergency that requires them to travel outside the country within 72 hours. Qualified emergencies include serious illnesses or deaths of immediate family members such as a parent, child, spouse or sibling, aunt or uncle. 

These travelers will be required to provide proof of the emergency which can be a death certificate or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional. They will also be asked to show proof of international travel such as an airline ticket. 

The Department of State did not say when it would resume normal passport services.

However, the U.S. government has been aggressive in closing its borders and banning foreign nationals from Europe. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged U.S. citizens still overseas to return home immediately, warning that he didn’t know how much longer commercial flights would be flying internationally or whether the U.S. could continue arranging charter flights.

If you filed for a passport prior to March 20, the Department of State said it still plans to issue those passports. 

“If you applied and requested expedited service on or before March 19, 2020, we will honor our commitment of 2-3 weeks door-to-door for expedited service,” the department said on its website. “If you applied in-person at a passport agency or center on or before March 19, 2020, the passport agency or center will contact you and ask if you want to pick-up your passport in person or have it mailed to you.” 

Some passport facilities may still be accepting passport applications despite the reduced services. But customers should contact the local facility to confirm they are still open and may need to schedule online appointments for those locations. 

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