Can I travel abroad now? COVID-19 pass updates

The US State Department on August 6th relaxed its pandemic warnings against international travel, which means more Americans may be considering big trips.

Certainly more people get on planes. Government statistics show that 831,789 travelers went through it TSA airport controls on Sunday far below the previous year’s figures, but the highest total since March 17th.

For those planning an international vacation, there are at least two big questions to consider:

1. Your passport?

When you need a new or renewed passport, it is hard to predict when you will get it. Although the State Department has reduced its backlog on passport applications, it still has a long way to go and has reduced the workforce in its passport offices across the country.

The agency says its top priority now is processing passport applications for vital emergencies, and it is not estimating how long it will take to process conventional applications, whether new or in the pipeline.

However, Times readers have shared anecdotal reports of waiting times ranging from five weeks to more than three months:

• In Weatherford, Texas, VB filed her passport renewal on May 22nd and eventually received an email that she will send to us on August 12th. But some parts of the process went faster than others. GB, who is married to VB, wrote that her check was “cleared to the bank in less than a week after the application was submitted”.

• In Pleasanton, Calif., Erik Scherer said he submitted his passport renewal in early July. “I think I am happy to announce that I received my passport back today,” Scherer wrote on August 8th. “I say ‘think’ because I … [the] Photo with full pandemic hair. “

• At Diamond Bar, Randy Kung said he applied for a passport renewal during the week of April 5th, the first few weeks the passport office closed, and signed up for an email notification of the status of his application. More than three months later, on July 27, he received an email notification. The passport arrived on July 30th.

• In Pau, France, David Blackburn (formerly Long Beach) wrote that he was requesting a normal – not expedited – extension and mailed it on June 6th.

“I expected long delays, like on the one [Department of State] Website, ”he wrote. Instead, he said his renewed passport arrived on June 20, barely two weeks after his application.

“In general, I’m not a huge fan of officials, but was impressed (but not completely surprised) to get it so quickly,” he wrote.

The State Department updates its passport backlog statistics every Thursday. on Thursday, officials said they issued 213,000 passports and received 139,000 applications the previous week. That left the agency’s backlog at 1.06 million, a number officials say is not uncommon during the busiest weeks of a normal year.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Passport pages provide details on contact information, which offices are open, how the process works, how you might get a status update, and why the agency continues to cash checks in a timely manner while it is behind on other tasks.

The short answer: officials can process your payments while working from home, but they can only handle secure documents like birth certificates in a government agency. And most of them remain with reduced capacities.

2. Your goal?

The State Department did on Thursday withdraw his warnings (in effect since March) that Americans should avoid all international travel. The move follows the great strides made by many nations in reducing COVID-19 cases and deaths.

However, as a spokesman said, health and safety conditions are improving “in some countries and may be deteriorating in others”. Also, many countries are suspicious of American visitors as the United States has a higher rate of infections and deaths than any other.

the European Union decided on Saturday to keep the US on its list of the countries whose travelers are most severely restricted. the United Kingdom a 14-day quarantine is still required.

Meanwhile, State Department officials are encouraging prospective travelers to review the department’s updated country-specific risk rankings from 1 to 4: one for “take normal precautions” to 4 for “do not travel.”

Mexico has a 4-ranking list (“do not travel”), and Canada has a 3-ranked list (“Rethink the trip”). But also Canada forbids Americans to make unnecessary visits north of our border.

the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is another excellent source for travel advice. The federal agency conducts its own country-specific analysis and continues to demand that “staying at home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19”.

The CDC country rankings use three risk categories: 1 for low, 2 for medium and 3 for high. North and South America as well as most of Europe and Asia are classified as high risk. New Zealand and Thailand are among the few countries with low risk ratings.

The CDC analyzes also provide details on case numbers from country to country; Further country-specific pandemic information can be found on the World Health Organization website.

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