There were a lot of people who were happy legislators in Washington, DC, were able to avoid a government shutdown at the last minute this weekend, and one of those was Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen – because his office handles passports and the deeds office was holding a large passport fair on the same weekend that the shutdown looked inevitable.
A shutdown by the federal government doesn’t affect most county services, but it can slow down or interrupt passport service since passports are processed at the federal level. Guidance that the State Department gave to employees as the shutdown deadline approached stated that processing of passport issuance would continue in a shutdown only “as the situation permits” and added that passport work could come to a complete stop if a building where the work is being done is closed by the shutdown.
A federal government shutdown can slow down the passport issuance process that at times is already slow and, if there’s a prolonged shutdown, widespread problems could result.
On Friday, Sept. 29, Thigpen was concerned about what was going to happen to the applications of all those people who needed passports and were coming to the large Saturday, Sept. 30 passport fair. Many of those who attended the fair no doubt had big trips coming up soon.
The current shutdown deal keeps the government open for another 45 days, but there could be another shutdown at that time.
“We are going to continue to send them in,” he said in the case of a shutdown.
Thigpen added, “What’s bad is that the US Department of State just got caught up, and started to reduce their return times on passport applications – and now this.”
Applications should be flowing through the passport pipeline as usual for the time being, however, with a shutdown now possible in a month and a half, people planning on traveling out of the country in the near future might want to go ahead and get their passports pronto.