Houston woman nearly missed daughter's wedding due to passport delay

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The date was set, the dress was picked out, but there was one big problem for an Alvin mom trying to get to her daughter's wedding in Cancun over the weekend.

"I sent in my passport application requesting a new card and my passport back on March 8," said Lisa Martinez-Heitman.

Months passed and her passport had still not arrived. With her only daughter's wedding being just weeks away, she reached out to ABC13 and to Congressman Troy Nehls' office for help.

Thankfully, it ended up in her hands with just hours to spare. It's something she said was a big relief after several difficulties along the way.

"I held it and I just started crying even harder. I was like, 'Okay, I can do this now.' So then I drove to the airport as fast as I could," explained Martinez-Heitman.

But this mom is not the only one having this problem.

Evan Wright got to pick up his passport Thursday after three months of waiting, and he told ABC13 he feels really lucky.

"A good portion of the people I saw in line told me it's been about 15 months from when they submitted it, (to) when they were actually able to pick up their passport. I am just happy I was able to get mine in a timely manner because I am actually leaving the country in a couple of days," explained Wright.

Right now the U.S. Department of State says to allow 18 weeks for routine passport service. That allows 12 weeks for processing and up to six weeks for mailing times on the front and back end.

After Martinez-Heitman's experience, she's advising others to apply even earlier than the Department of State says.

"People need to go ahead and get their application in, probably six months in advance because the turnover time and lead time on this has just been absolutely ridiculous," said Martinez-Heitman.

Congressman Nehls' office said they were glad to be able to help Martinez-Heitman get to her daughter's wedding and released this statement, saying other people with this problem who live in District 22 can reach out to them for passport help too.

"Lisa reached out to our office looking for help with her passport. Thankfully, we were able to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and expedite delivery so she could make her daughter's wedding. If you're a resident of District 22 and need assistance with your passport, please call my office at 346-762-6600. We're here to help!"

The Department of State also sent the following statement regarding the passport backup:

"Customers applying for routine service domestically can expect to receive a passport within 12 weeks from when we receive the application, or within six weeks from when we receive the application if they pay an additional $60 fee to expedite their passport.

Most acceptance facilities such as post offices, clerks of court, and public libraries are open and accepting passport applications. Applicants should verify the operating status and specific procedures for any acceptance facility. We recommend eligible adults renew their passports by mail when possible because it is a safe, contactless option for certain services.

While our dedicated team of passport professionals has returned to our facilities in substantial numbers, we have generally restricted appointments at Department of State public passport agencies to cases involving life or death emergencies and offer very limited appointments for non-essential travel within 72 hours. See our website for more details on appointments."
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