Shifting travel guidelines, passport backlog causing issues for travelers

National News

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Despite the Delta variant and COVID cases rising across the country, people are continuing to book vacations into the fall. 

Testing requirements, stay-at-home orders and quarantine protocols continue to shift as case numbers fluctuate around the world. 

The guidelines in place on the day you book your trip may be different than when you leave for vacation. As time goes on, destinations like the Bahamas, Greece, Italy and the U.K. are turning to COVID passports as a way of opening up and letting people travel. 

“It’s a health passport, and they’re making you sign up for these and registering with information on COVID and where your vaccination was and getting QR codes,” said Donna Anderson, owner of Columbus-based travel agency Travels by Donna. “You have to download these before you go and if you don’t have it downloaded, they will deny you from boarding on the flight.”

The U.S. State Department is also dealing with a pandemic-related backlog of about 2 million passport requests.  The influx of demand and lengthy processing delays mean that passports are currently expected to take up to 18 weeks to process. This has created a roadblock for people making international travel plans. 

Anderson says some of her clients have had to cancel their trips due to the backlog. 

“One in the party got theirs but the other one didn’t get it, so they were still on the fence with it,” Anderson said. “When I called in to make that change, one agent—and there’s hundreds of agents that they’ve got at the tour operator—she said I was the fourth one on that day that had cancelled and changed due to the passports.”

This means that applications submitted will likely not be processed until the fall. People looking to get passports now or renew passports may have to save international travel plans for 2022.

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