U.S. halts issuing passports due to virus concerns

The U.S. State Department said it was not issuing any new passports or renewals during the COVID-19 outbreak, making exceptions in only “life or death” emergencies.

The agency said in those cases, it's offering strictly in-person service for those who need immediate international travel within 72 hours.

Cases that qualify as life or death emergencies include serious illness, injuries, or death in the immediate family.

Passport applications submitted before March 19 were being processed, but State Department officials said applicants should expect delays. The agency also said it was making every effort to meet the 2-3 week promise for those who paid to get their passports expedited. 

Those seeking emergency passports were required to provide a passport application with supporting documents, proof of the life or death emergency such as a signed letter from a hospital, and a plane ticket or itinerary or other proof of international travel related to the emergency.

On March 31, the State Department issued a Level 4 "Do Not Travel" advisory, and asked all Americans to avoid international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.