By JOE GIDDENS
As of March 2, the Pima Community College East Campus is designated to accept and execute passport applications on behalf of the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs.
It will verify the information of first-time applicants, minors and applicants who are not eligible to renew by mail. The East Campus then will send those verified applications to the Department of State, who will process the paperwork and issue the passports.
During a cabinet meeting in April 2017, Pima was approached by representatives from the Western Passports Center about the need for a passport acceptance facility on Tucson’s East Side. It’s easy to see why — the Department of State was in the middle of a record-breaking year issuing more than 21 million U.S. passports, up over 20 percent from the previous year. This year’s total number of passport issues is anticipated to match that.
“Basically, we’re trying to expand the network of acceptance facilities in Southern Arizona to meet the demands of the American travel public,” said Kenneth Ramey, customer service manager for the Western Passport Center.
Passport holders are a rapidly growing segment of the population. Ten years ago, about 25 percent of the populace were passport holders, while now it’s over 40 percent, according to a Chicago Tribune article.
This is partly due to because of youth spending more time and money traveling and increased globalization. The implementation of the Real ID Act is another factor, which was passed in the wake of 9/11. The act aims to enhance the security of a person’s identification. Coming soon will be a requirement that all domestic flight users need to possess a Real ID-compliant license or a passport.
As a political subdivision of the state of Arizona, the East Campus met all of the public sector entity requirements that are mandated by the Department of State.
“I thought this is perfect — East side of town, the East Campus. It’s a match made in heaven,” said East Campus President Lorraine Morales. “So, the services we provide are for this particular community that is the biggest benefit.
“There’s 327,000 people that live in this surrounding community, and the East Campus is the only campus of the college on this side of Stone (Avenue),” Morales said.
“This facility will not only provide passport information and acceptance for students and faculty, but the residents and businesses on the expanding East Side and Houghton corridor,” Ramey said.
The financial incentive for Pima is that the college will be making $25 for each passport application in an “execution fee.” Morales and Deputy Executive Administrator Daniel Soza said they are anticipating that the program will bring in $100,000 in revenue in the first year.
“The other thing that it helps facilitate is people coming from Benson and beyond don’t have to travel all the way into the center of Tucson to turn in their passport applications,” Soza said. “So, that will be helpful for U.S. citizens coming from that direction of the state as to having easier access to another facility.”
Now is a good time to venture to the East Campus if you’ve been putting off your passport application. The State Department will be raising its passport execution fee from $25 to $35 on April 2. It’s recommended that you don’t put it off because the State Department lists four to six weeks to process the application on its website. The Western Passports Center will expedite if you’re willing to pay an addition $60 and provide proof of travel such as reservations or airplane tickets. The Western Passport Center also will expedite for “Life or Death Emergencies.”
“With the launching of PCC’s program today, we now have 97 facilities in the state of Arizona,” Ramey said.
Pima Passport Services are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, located at the cashier’s office. It will accept passport applications and take passport photos for $12.
For more information, visit: www.travel.state.gov.