Chandler passport office a popular destination - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler passport office a popular destination

December 6th, 2021 development
Chandler passport office a popular destination
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Chandler passport office a popular destination

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

A Los Angeles couple recently traveled to Chandler, spending the night at a local hotel and enjoying some of the city’s better restaurants.

Nothing unusual about that, tourism is a major industry in Arizona. However, the reason they came is a bit unique.

They wanted to visit the Chandler City Clerk’s office to get a passport.

“We’ve had people come in as far as Oregon,” said Erica Barba, the program administrator for Chandler’s passport program.

She said they’re starting to see a lot more people from California making the trek. In fact, Barba said about 70 percent of the people applying for a passport in that office live outside Chandler.

There’s one reason why the city is a destination: They are one of the few sites that can accept an application and that have available appointments.

“When all the facilities opened again after the pandemic, everyone had a hard time getting an appointment,” Barba said. “We got down a really good system, so we had open appointments and they would come here.”

Why does Chandler have open appointments when almost no other office does?

“A lot has to do with the Council allowing us to add a couple of employees to be able to do this,” said City Clerk Dana DeLong. “We only ever had two passport agents assigned as a permanent employees, but allowing us to have two more is giving us the opportunity to take on more appointments.”

The city started accepting passport applications in 1994 and currently processes about 60 to 70 applications a day. DeLong said they’ve handled more than 200,000 applications since they started 27 years ago.

The city manager approved hiring two more employees to process passport applications in July because of a huge backlog caused by the pandemic. They were hired through existing funds for temporary workers in the City Clerk’s office. However, that money ran out, so the City Council Nov. 4 approved paying those two employees through the end of the fiscal year next June 30.

Those expenses will not cut into the city’s finances.

“We make quite a bit in revenue,” DeLong said. “In fact, the amount we make for the passport program not only pays for two passport people, it pays for part of our staff here.”

That makes Chandler’s City Clerk’s office one of the few in the Valley that brings in revenue. Other Valley cities that offer passport services are Avondale, Maricopa, Scottsdale and Surprise. People are coming to Chandler because it has open appointments. One of those other offices doesn’t have an available appointment until January.

The U.S. State Department stopped issuing passports except for extreme circumstances in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeLong said they tried to continue the service, but anyone who had applied had to wait for months while their paperwork sat with other important documents attached on some desk.

“So, all of those documents you have to send, your birth certificate, they sat there until they could get those processed,” DeLong said. “Some people waited … almost a year to get those documents back.”

The State Department was estimated to have had a backlog of about two million passport applications when it started processing them again.

Chandler started accepting passport applications again in February but used a new system: No more walk-ins, appointments only.

“We’ve had actually really good input from the citizens on going to the appointment system,” Barba said. “Back in the day, we had where we had like an hour to two-hour wait.”

DeLong said they got busy at the end of each day, when people could just walk in and apply for a passport. She said going to the appointment model makes it easier to manage the staff and keeps their lobby from filling up with bored folks who are growing frustrated as they wait.

“It has changed everything about the way that we do this,” DeLong said.

And the word is out. Barba said they get contacted by some major employers looking to help employees get passports. Two of them are Intel and the Arizona Cardinals, who gave the City Clerk’s office a personalized team ball.

“Our reputation is very well, we’re very professional and we get them in and out,” Barba said. “When people think passports, they think of Chandler City Clerk’s office, and we take pride in that.”

 

What to know about passports

Applying

You must apply in person at an approved office if one of these is true:

• You are applying for your first U.S. passport

• You are under age 16

• Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under 16

• Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen or damaged

• Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago

What to bring

• Proof of U.S. citizenship

• Government-issued ID

• Passport photo

• If you’ve changed your legal name, copy of marriage certificate or court order

Chandler passport office a popular destination

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