ST ALBANS CITY -- It’s been days since people from all over the country have been lining up around the St. Albans City Passport Agency to receive their passports--many of which have already been applied for in advance -- after hearing and reading that the St. Albans City location was the only agency where they could be found.
“I heard that here was taking walk-ins and it was the only place taking walk-ins on the east coast,” said NYC resident Mariah Isaacs, who was set to fly out to Paris, France on Sunday. ”I drove seven hours. I saw many people posting about it, many people with pictures of getting their passport. I’ve waited in line since 5:30 in the morning, and they just came out at 8 a.m. and told everyone that they’re not accepting any walk-ins.”
Isaacs expedited her passport renewal for one-day shipping over a month ago and after her passport didn't come in the mail she decided to take the online advice from Facebook groups to make the trek to from New York City to St. Albans as a last-ditch effort to find one.
“Everyone was talking about how they take walk-ins here,” Isaacs said. “Everything in the application process is already done, and I would not have driven here if I didn’t know for sure that everyone was getting their passports.”
The parking spaces out in front of the City's passport agency were completely filled with out-of-state license plates at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, with cars coming from Maryland, Texas, New Jersey, Florida and lots of yellow plates from New York state.
“We left New Jersey at 10 o’clock and drove straight through, and were here at 4:30,” said Andrea Solis, who arrived with her husband and son. “And there was already a line.”
Residents said they had driven almost ten hours, and men, women, children and families crowded the sidewalks outside the agency in the hundreds, bringing out folding chairs and cases of bottled water to wait for answers.
Solis and her family were on their way to Costa Rica.
“My entire family is going, and they are the two that don’t have passports,” Solis said gesturing to her husband and son.
Anisa Sharrief arrived with her brothers and family in hopes of acquiring their passports before their July 23 flight.
“I got here at 4:30 in the morning,” Anisa Sharrief said. “There’s like 50 of us going to Jamaica. And I already paid for everything! Me, my brother, my sister-in-law and my brother and my cousin’s baby -- she’s a brand-new infant -- we’re all here to get our passports. My brother put his application in in March!”
Sharrief said also paid for expedited shipping for her passport to arrive in time, but hasn't received anything in the mail.
Those waiting in line were issued a written notice from the Agency, at the top of which says “APPOINTMENTS ONLY-NO WALK-IN SERVICE-CALL (877)487-2778, but Solis said the automated service indicates that there are no appointments available for the next 14 days.
To see the written notice, click here.
“If they work here, they should be able to give me halfway decent information on what my options are,” Iman Sharrief said. “Even if they’re not taking anybody.”
Manhattan resident Katya Joseph said she'd been on the phone with the agency for over an hour and a half, and had already rescheduled her Wednesday flight for 5:00 p.m. today with Jet Blue for her business trip to Mexico where she would be undergoing legal training.
“My opinion is that they just got overwhelmed,” Solis said.
“They should take everyone today and then make it known that they’re not accepting walk-ins anymore,” Isaacs said. “Some people came from Texas! It’s ridiculous."
But calls and waiting hours on an agency help-line got them nowhere, they said, and no one was let into the agency without an appointment.
The St. Albans City Police was present at the Agency on Thursday morning, and officials from the Passport Agency declined to offer comment at this time.