Passport fees waived for those reapplying in wake of Katrina

Josh Echt

The city of Kent and area facilities will waive passport re-application fees indefinitely due to Hurricane Katrina closing the New Orleans federal passport processing facility, said Linda Copley, Clerk of Kent City Council.

Fifty-two applicants who applied for passports at the clerk’s office are affected by the change, which went into effect after the hurricane hit New Orleans in August. As of last week, seven have had their fees waived, Copley said. The policy affects those who applied for a passport in Kent that was specifically processed by the New Orleans office, she said.

“The passports are safeguarded in the vault of the office of the Department of State there,” Copley said.

Anyone with a passport not processed by the New Orleans center is not eligible for the waiver.

The $97 fee goes to both the Department of State, which receives $67 and also waived its fees, and the Kent office, which receives $30.

Both residents and non-residents are able to apply for a passport in the city, Copley said. The fee waiver does not affect the city’s finances since the fees were collected the first time around.

The Department of State sent postcards to applicants affected by the delay, telling them they need to re-apply for a passport at the nearest processing facility like the city of Kent or a local post office, said Leanna Veasley, customer service supervisor for the Ravenna Post Office.

If applicants need to travel within two weeks, their passport applications will be forwarded to the Department of State’s Miami office, Copley said. If applicants need to travel within three to six weeks, their applications will be forwarded to the Charlotte office.

Once the applications are successfully re-processed at the Miami or Charlotte installations, the Department of State will mail the passports.

Copley said facilities require prospective applicants and re-applicants to have several forms of identification, such as a driver’s license and a certified copy of a birth certificate.

Normally, the passport fee applies to applicants 16 years and older and lasts 10 years. For applicants under 16 years of age, the passport costs $82 and lasts five years, Veasley said.

The hurricane did not deter many travelers from international travel, despite the shutdown of the New Orleans passport facility, said Prentiss Brown, owner of McNeil Travel in Kent.

Shelly Moats, owner of Ravenna-based Armstrong Travel, said a couple bound for Germany in October was assisted by Armstrong Travel after their original application wound up in New Orleans.

Moats said the couple received a postcard with a target date of the passport’s arrival with their first application.

“They contacted the Charlotte office to receive status of their application after the hurricane and re-applied for a new one,” Moats said.

The couple also paid a higher fee for their passport to receive it on time.

Moats also said customers may delay their travel plans until the situation improves and the New Orleans office reopens.

Contact public affairs reporter Josh Echt at [email protected].