HOUSTON — A Houston couple says they're out of nearly $5,000 after delays getting their passports prevented them from taking an international trip with their young grandson.
Pam Rogers said she and her husband both applied to renew their passports at the same time, about 10 weeks before their trip to Canada was scheduled, which was in late June. She said the U.S. State Department received both of their applications at the same time. Five weeks later, Rogers says she got her passport. Her husband's didn't arrive until shortly after they were meant to leave.
"We renewed the passports. We used the expedited service. We went directly through the State Department on their, online, submitted our prior passports, which were only expired like a year, paid the expedited fee for processing, paid the expedited fee for mailing even," she said. "They said seven to nine weeks, the trip was 10 weeks out."
Rogers said the State Department has a tracking feature meant to update applicants about the process. She said the tracking system did not work.
"Never an email of anything happening. Even my own passport was in my mailbox before anything was changed on the system," she said.
Passport renewal/application tips:
Rogers waited a week after receiving her passport to reach out to the State Department to try and figure out where her husband's was.
"The calling is just a lesson in futility," she said about her experience trying to get in touch with the department.
Rogers said she spent hours on hold, day after day, and wasn't able to get any help.
“I have probably spent about 30 hours of my time, personal time, not including my husband’s time, trying to get information,” she said.
Eventually, she said she reached out to Sen. Ted Cruz's office to try and get help.
The senator has been outspokenly critical of the State Department's "backlog of passport approvals." He's even asked Texans struggling to get passports to reach out to his office through his website, so long as they meet certain requirements, like having a trip planned within the week, an urgent life-or-death emergency or business travel.
Even after reaching out to the senator's office, the day of their trip came without receiving the passport.
"I canceled everything that Thursday night," Rogers said. "Friday afternoon, I got notification, I went online and looked again and it said, 'Mail should arrive today.'"
"My whole point is, had they put on there on Wednesday, 'Hey, this is mailed you'll have it by Friday noon,' I might have been able to change things."
Rogers said they were refunded for their flights and hotels but still had to pay for a rental home and ferry ride.
She said she felt like she was let down by the State Department.
"There's only a few times in your life where you need your government. This is one of those moments," Rogers said. "If this was a public or private company, they would be out of business."
Rogers said they had saved up for the trip over two years but were more concerned about other people who may be in a similar situation.
"My story is just a cautionary tale that's probably happened to tens of thousands of people out there," she said. "No one is doing anything to fix it."
For more information on expedited passports, click here.