From 2 Investigators
CHICAGO (CBS) – A local couple was planning a dream wedding in Aruba, but their plans were nearly scuttled because of an issue of national security. It seems incredible, but it all started when the groom applied for a passport.
Amy Jo Jursich, the bride-to-be, contacted CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman, after the couple encountered weeks of delays and unexplained demands for more records by the State Department.
“They wanted more picture ID’s and they wanted more examples of his signature,” Jursich said of the first letter her fiancé got.
They sent the requested documents, but it was still not enough.
“They requested, in the second letter, a high school yearbook picture,” she said, and records that were at least 10 years old or older, including tax returns, medical records, previous employers with supervisors to contact and all of his prior addresses.
The anxious groom, Ted Malone, wanted to know, “why am I being flagged? What did I do wrong?”
Malone feared that his identity had been stolen by someone else, or he was mistakenly flagged as a terrorist.
The process should have taken four to six weeks, but as the weeks passed the couple feared the closest they’d get to Aruba was looking at computer pictures of their hotel.
“I was just absolutely outraged,” Jursich said. “I couldn’t believe this, I thought for sure they were flagging him.”
It’s obvious why people flock to Aruba for destination weddings, but without a passport the couple’s plans were in serious jeopardy.
“This really could have ruined all of our plans, and we could have really stood to lose a lot of money as well,” Jursich said.
They finally got some answers after CBS 2 Investigators contacted the State Department in Washington.
They were put in touch with a supervisor in Passport Services, who explained that under a four-month old policy, the problem was that the picture ID Malone presented with his original application had been renewed less than a year ago.
And the extended delay?
“They said there was nothing on my end, it was their end. They dropped the ball actually, it was sitting on somebody’s desk for a while,” said Malone.
A spokeswoman for Passport Services here in Chicago said she could not comment to CBS 2 about what caused the delay in Malone’s application approval, or whether the government has a new policy for people whose photo identification cars are less than a year old.
But Rebecca Larson, fraud program manager for the Passport office in Chicago, said generally that, “Asking for additional documentation is something that we are entitled to do if we deem it necessary.”
Why would people be put through all of this?
“What we’re doing is protecting national security,” Larson said. “We want to ensure that who we are issuing the passport to is legitimately issued to them.”
But this story does have a happy ending. Within days of our inquiry, the passport was sent overnight to Ted Malone. The wedding is on.
If you’re concerned about getting your passport on time, you can pay $60 extra to expedite the process.