Customers enduring hours-long lines at Travis County passport office

Travis County officials are seeing an unprecedented surge in the number of people seeking passports.

Passport office staff has had to cut off the line of people waiting at around 1pm when they usually don't do so until about 3pm.

“Normally, we don't have lines outside. The last two weeks we have experienced such a high demand that we have had to have everybody wait outside,” said Nancy Howell, Travis County passport program manager.

“I didn't even know if we'd get space to sit because she said if you don't find a spot you have to wait outside and she'll call us, so it was jam packed,” said passport customer Ashwini Vidyasagar.

This same week in 2016 the office helped about 1,100 people apply for passports. This year the number is closer to 2,000. Some have said it could be because of deportation fears in the area. Passport officials haven't been able to confirm that.

“All I can tell you is that there is an unprecedented demand in passports over the last two weeks compared to last year and previous years,” Howell said.  

One couple who said they were getting a passport for their son waited for five hours. Another said it took her four and a half, much longer than the typical two-hour wait.

“You should come all prepared with all the food, drinks and if you're planning to get kids better have a babysitter, it's not worth putting them through all the trouble unless the babies need to get a passport,” said Vidyasagar. 

Officials said they expect the lines to get even longer next month.

“Our busiest time is going to be during spring break in March and we are actually seeing spring break come early this year,” Howell said. 

While applying for a passport is taking customers extra hours, the wait for the actual document is also slower than usual.

“It's taken up to six weeks now where normally it's 4-6 weeks,” said Howell. 

Staff at the passport office said the best bet for customers is to get there by 10am so they are definitely in line before the cut-off time. County officials said it's possible they will ask staff to work some overtime hours next week to meet the increase in demand.

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