The State Department is restarting passport services for American citizens as the Trump administration seeks to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, but new applicants will have to wait at least eight weeks to get a document, an official said.

Department staff who aren’t considered high-risk for COVID-19 started coming back to the office on Thursday and are working through about 1.7 million applications submitted before most passport services were suspended in March, Carl Risch, the assistant secretary for consular affairs, told reporters Friday.

Risch said it will take six to eight weeks just to work through the backlog, which amounts to a little more than a month’s applications in normal times. He said the State Department was distributing protective equipment and taking other precautions so that passport services could continue even if coronavirus cases spike again, as has happened in some states.

“We believe we’re in a much better position now going forward to weather such storms should they come back,” Risch said. He said close to half of passport service employees are back at work.

The State Department still doesn’t have a time frame for lifting the Level 4 travel advisory that warns Americans to avoid all but the most essential travel overseas, Risch said.


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