If you’re looking to travel out of the country and you need a passport, good luck with that.

A suspension of services at the local level and a backlog at the federal level has meant that only a few people in emergency situations are able to get passports right now.

The Guilford County Register of Deeds Office has been one popular place for those seeking passports in Guilford County; however, on Thursday, March 19 the county’s passport operations were shut down due to the pandemic, and, even when the deeds office passport service does open back up, a bottleneck at the federal level means that the vast majority of people wanting a passport will not be able to get one in a timely manner.

Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen stated this week that federal offices have been in the process of reopening but the backlog is huge.

As of Monday, July 6, a 12 federal passport agencies and centers are in phase one of three-phase reopening plans, while four are in phase two of their reopening plans.

The federal passport offices that are processing applications and renewals are prioritizing those people who need a passport within three days for a life-or-death emergency. Those are being handled by appointment only.

The COVID-19 numbers have been rising in much of the nation recently, so it will no doubt be a good while before things at the federal offices are back to normal or something like it.

During phase two of those reopenings, most staff will return and be able to resume processing more of the applications but there will still be a giant backlog.

“This has contributed to significant delays in processing applications at the federal regional processing facilities,” Thigpen stated. “I’ve heard that as many as one million applications and renewals have been delayed due to COVID-19.   The US Dept. of State is recommending customers wait to submit new or renewal applications as delays will continue in phase one and two.”

As for Guilford County’s passport office, Thigpen said, it’s putting together a strategy for reopening.

“We are working on a workflow model that will increase social distancing and technology in pre-checking applications to reduce in-office interaction,” he stated. “We are also in a hiring process for a new staff person. We have not set a date for reopening but are looking at September 1st.”