A California-based visa and passport processing company announced it would be accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment as the U.S. State Department’s operations are beginning to return to normal.
According to a Nov. 6 announcement from passport and visa expeditor Peninsula Visa based in San Jose, the company stated it would be giving customers the option to pay for select passport services using Bitcoin (BTC). Backed by retailer payment facilitator Coinbase Commerce, Peninsula Visa will be offering passport renewals and name changes in addition to applications related to second passports. U.S. citizens over the age of 16 are allowed to hold one “primary” passport book or card valid for 10 years in addition to a second one valid for 4 years.
“Offering travelers the ability to pay via Bitcoin feels like the right move at the right time,” said Peninsula Visa COO Evan James, citing his hope that travel would return to normal once the threat from the pandemic was over.
When government offices and businesses were first shut down in March following measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, many of the State Department’s 26 passport agencies across the continental United States and Puerto Rico were likewise affected, causing delays in passport processing for first-time applicants as well as those renewing or altering their documents for common events like marriage. According to a report from the LA Times, there was a backlog of nearly one million passports as of Sept. 23.
However, many of the State Department’s offices have already opened with staff for in-person passport applicants. The government agency announced on Nov. 3 that it had reduced processing time to 10-12 weeks for standards applications, and 4-6 weeks for expedited passports — pre-COVID, one could obtain a passport in person within a week under certain circumstances.
Though private businesses have offered Bitcoiners the opportunity to purchase international flights using crypto, governments have seemingly been less than forthcoming to do so for certain services. In June, a Venezuela government agency briefly listed Bitcoin as a form of payment for passport applications from Venezuelan citizens living abroad before disabling the service the next day.