Good News for Travelers: You Can Still Get a Passport, Contact Embassies Despite Government Shutdown
WASHINGTON - Given the frustrating politics of the government-shutdown stalemate, now seems like a perfect time to leave the country, at least until this whole unpleasantness blows over.
The good news is: you can!
The U.S. will continue to issue passports, even after the federal government has shut down, the State Department said Monday. Passports are funded by the fees paid by applicants, making them immune to budget politics, State Dept. officials said. It doesn't matter whether Congress funds the government, because passports pay for themselves.
"When you go in and you renew your passport, as you're looking forward to traveling with us around the world, you pay a fee, and that helps fund the program, and so that allows the programs and the consular steps to continue," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at Monday's daily press briefing.
There's only one catch: Some passport offices are located in federal buildings that will close along with the shutdown, but for reasons unrelated to passports. The State Department recommends calling ahead to make sure an office is open, before going there to apply.
Embassies and consulates won't close today, either.
For Americans at home and those traveling out of the country, consular services will continue. If you need something from a U.S. embassy, the State Department says you'll be able to get it.
Not only will embassies and consulates remain open, they won't staff down immediately, either. Because the State Department has leftover money in some of its accounts, embassies and consulates will remain fully operational as long as that money is left. State Department officials said they weren't sure exactly how long it will last.
After the leftover money is spent, embassies and consulates won't close entirely. Some staff will be exempted from the shutdown - those necessary for security and "for all activities essential to national security, including the conduct of foreign affairs essential to national security," according to a memo sent to State Department officials last week.