10.22.10

Vermont Passport Office To Open In February, Creating Jobs And Easing Vermonters’ Travel

Leahy Tours Renovations Underway In St. Albans

ST. ALBANS, Vt. (FRIDAY, Oct. 22) – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Friday toured the State Department’s new Vermont Passport Agency office under construction in St. Albans, as Vermont prepares to join the ranks of fewer than two dozen states with such passport offices.  During the visit State Department officials told Leahy that they expect to open the new facility to the public early next year, in February.  

The new office will occupy St. Albans’ ornate former Post Office building on South Main Street.  The renovation of the 6,650 square-foot facility is funded with $2.3 million of the $15 million for new passport agencies that Leahy included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  It is expected to employ 17 people, and most will be hired locally. 

“This new office will save countless Vermonters the long drive to Boston and back to iron out their passport issues,” said Leahy, who chairs the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, which oversees U.S. passport operations.  “With the Canadian border right on our doorstep, it makes sense to have a passport office here in Vermont.”

Leahy also welcomed the current and future jobs that the project is bringing to Vermont.  “In the Appropriations Committee, I included funds for ready-to-go passport agencies in the stimulus bill because they meet a compelling public need, while quickly creating local jobs.  Vermont’s new passport office perfectly fits the bill, creating jobs now during construction, and on into the future, when it opens to serve the public.”

“I am especially pleased that this new office and its staff of 17 will be hosted in an historic Vermont downtown,” Leahy said.  “This retired Post Office and its handsome lobby are a real treasure in downtown St. Albans, and it is perfectly suited and situated to continue serving this community and all Vermonters in a new century.” 

In its first year, the Vermont Passport Agency will issue U.S. passport books and passport cards onsite to qualifying customers who plan to travel within 14 days or who have life or death emergencies, and the State Department projects that the Vermont Passport Agency will issue 15,000 passports, including 2,500 to customers served at its public counters.

Last fall Leahy announced that the State Department had selected St. Albans as the home for one of five new passport agencies to bring the total to 23 agencies across the country.  Other new passport agencies will be opening in Buffalo, El Paso, Atlanta and San Diego as part of the Leahy funding provision and the State Department’s efforts to improve access to passport services.  Currently the closest passport office for Vermonters is in Boston.  

Since June 1, 2009, all U.S. citizens have been required to provide a U.S. Passport, U.S. Passport Card or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-acceptable document when traveling through land and sea border points from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  The demand for U.S. passports and passport cards has been at historic highs over the past couple of years and is expected to remain strong. 

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