WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made this statement following a briefing and tour of the U.S. Department of State Passport Processing Center in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday.
“I received a very consequential tour and briefing regarding the Charleston Passport Center. Charleston, South Carolina has the largest footprint for State Department employees in the world outside of Washington, D.C. I am very proud of the Charleston Passport Center. They do great work on behalf of our nation.
“In 1990, only five percent of Americans had a passport. Today it is now up to 46 percent. We are trying to obtain an ‘in-person passport counter’ for those who find themselves in an emergency passport situation in South Carolina. The closest office providing in-person emergency services is in Atlanta – which serves people from as many as five surrounding states.
“I hope that this service will come to Charleston because it would be a godsend for South Carolinians dealing with passport problems or emergencies. My office deals with hundreds of passport requests every year and having an in-person counter in Charleston, rather than relying solely on Atlanta, would be a game changer.
“Finally, I appreciate Deputy Secretary Rich Verma, a longtime friend and the Chief Operating Officer of the State Department, taking the time to come and personally look at this dilemma. Hopefully in the coming days and months we can have a break through allowing Charleston to provide in-person service to our communities.”
Background on the U.S. Department of State Passport Processing Center in Charleston:
- There are 29 passport agencies and centers across the United States.
- The Charleston Passport Center does not offer in-person appointments. In turn, anyone from South Carolina that requires an emergency in-person appointment within two weeks of travel must physically travel to the Atlanta Passport Agency, which is the closest agency to South Carolina. Many constituents have had to travel to California, Chicago and Buffalo, NY since Atlanta was booked.
- The Atlanta Passport Agency serves as many as five surrounding states (roughly 38.5 million people), compared to California which has three agencies in the state alone (roughly 39.2 million people).
- During travel peaks and different seasons, these agencies become overburdened and backlogged, resulting in fewer appointments being available. This adds additional layers of stress for those who must obtain a passport to make emergency travel, especially in situations where the travel is due to a life or death emergency.
- Senator Graham has long-called for a better solution for the people of South Carolina and is continuing to press the State Department to put together a plan.