VICENZA, Italy -- Changes at the installation passport office here will affect Vicenza Military Community residents.

The USAG Italy Passport Office transitioned to a partial appointment system effective Jan. 16, with plans to implement a full online system in the near future.

According to Tamara Elston, chief of Military Personnel Division, United States Army Garrison Italy Directorate of Human Resources, the changes are necessary to allow the staff to better manage workflow and reduce customer wait times that were steadily increasing under previous operating procedures.

"The new schedule is a mix of walk-ins and appointments that enables us to set aside blocks of time for services that take longer," Elston said, "like passport applications for families with three or more applicants or Consular Reports of Births Abroad (CRBAs) and Social Security card (SSC) applications which we call 'Newborn Packets.'"

The organization is expecting relief in the form of new employees in the coming months, but onboarding them will take time and services to the community must still be rendered.

"Though we are awaiting the arrival of three new hires who will all receive passport training, we are currently down to two employees in the section, only one of whom is an authorized passport agent. Until our new hires are onboard and fully trained, we have to make some changes to handle the sheer volume of customers we see on a daily basis," the division chief added.

The current schedule allows for walk-ins on Mondays and Tuesdays for all services except for those previously mentioned. Wednesday and Friday mornings are reserved for outprocessing Soldiers and civilians, passport pickup, and quick questions & answers on a walk-in basis.

Appointments are scheduled for newborn packets, and no-fee and tourist passport applications and renewals for larger families during the afternoons. Families should plan for approximately 30 minutes per member for passport applications, though renewals only take 10-15 minutes per person.
Thursdays are full appointment days for official passport applications/renewals and both no-fee and tourist passport applications/renewals for families with only one to two applicants. Outprocessing Soldiers and civilians can stop by for walk-in service.

"It's important that customers sign in on the appropriate clipboard upon arrival as we are constantly conducting triage in order to identify those who are outprocessing or picking up passports so we can get them in and out as quickly as possible," explained Elston.

"Community members must understand that our priority mission is (1) official travel documents, (2) outprocessing and (3) birth registrations. Though we are happy to process tourist passport applications, you can anticipate longer wait times to be seen. This is why we recommend that customers provide their contact information on the appointment clipboard; we will follow up with them via email to schedule an appointment."

Office hours are 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Documentation checklists for each type of action are available in the Passport Office lobby during operating hours, though the staff recommends that newborn packet applicants stop by before making an appointment to review requirements with a staff member. This can be done during regular walk-in hours or after they register the birth at the Comune di Vicenza. Applicants without all required documentation upon arrival will be asked to reschedule.

Online scheduling options are currently being explored for an eventual transition to a full appointment system. Additionally, the MPD plans to implement weekly group briefings to go over the various actions and procedures. In the interim, Elston asks for help from community members to inform incoming Soldiers and family members that the best course of action is to apply for tourist passports and renewals before leaving the United States. The cost is the same, but renewals can be submitted online and passport applications are accepted at most U. S. post offices. The Department of State website provides full details to include when, where, and how to apply at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport.html. Installation passport offices in the U.S. are not authorized to process tourist passports.

"Every family member must have a tourist passport for personal travel," Elston explained. "Use of official travel documents is not only not allowed, but is also a security risk. The only other option once in country is to travel to Rome or Milan for expedited service, though those offices will typically help only in emergency situations. Bottom line: It is much quicker and easier for folks to get their tourist passports stateside. Though we've enlisted the assistance of the CONUS MPDs to make the recommendation during the official passport application process, we've found that word of mouth and social media are much more effective in getting the message out."

The Passport Office email address for scheduling appointments is usarmy.usag-italy.imcom-europe.mbx.passport-office@mail.mil. The full schedule of services can be found on the USAG Italy website, www.italy.army.mil, and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/vmcitaly.