US citizens face 12-day passport delay

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 12:00am

A new passport-issuing policy started by the American consulate general could leave people without a travel document for up to 12 days.

US passport holders wanting to renew or replace their passports have to wait for courier post to deliver them, instead of picking them up at the consulate.

However, as US law generally prohibits possession of more than one valid passport, passports submitted for renewal or replacement will immediately be cancelled, leaving the owner without a travel document until their new one arrives - at the latest, 10 working days later.

The main reason for the new procedure was convenience, a consulate spokeswoman said.

'This new policy reduces the number of times people have to return to the consulate and also lessens congestion, especially at the entry, which only consists of a single door,' said Susan Stevenson.

Since April 4, the US consulate has processed 200 new passports.

'Of the 200, we've only received three or four complaints - we think the problem is more of an emotional issue, the idea of not having a travel document for 10 days,' Ms Stevenson said.

'For the most part, applicants have welcomed not having to make another trip to the consulate.'

However, in urgent situations, emergency passports will be processed while the applicant waits.

These include frequent travellers who cannot wait to get the new passport by post and people who did not anticipate having to travel.

'We are flexible in accommodating people with real problems in emergencies,' Ms Stevenson said.

The US consulate in Hong Kong issues about 100 emergency or temporary passports every month.

The policy does not affect US citizens working across the border.

They may apply at the consulate in Guangzhou and keep their existing passport until the new one is ready.

The next policy change regarding passports is expected to be the introduction of biometric passports, which will be issued from early next year.