The number of requests for passports through the Lebanon County Prothonotary’s Office has really soared in recent months. 

“We could have one person solely dedicated to processing passports every day of the week,” prothonotary and clerk of courts Barb Smith told LebTown.

From January through March of 2023, the prothonotary’s office processed 747 passport applications and generated $32,635 in revenue. March was especially busy, with 270 passports earning the county coffers $11,790 in revenue.

“Our one cost is purchasing the paper that we use to take the pictures of those who need one for their passport,” said Smith. 

In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic halted air travel, total revenue for passports in Lebanon County was $117,120, with 2,776 passports being distributed.

“If we keep up this year’s trend, our revenue will be close to $140,000 by the end of the year,” said Smith.

To alleviate some of this demand, as well as provide a public service to county residents, the prothonotary will hold a Passport Acceptance Day this Saturday, April 29, at the county municipal building from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The county sheriff’s office will also be open from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. that same day to process Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms permits. 

“Since we have to be here to provide security at the door, we figured we could also provide that service as well,” said county Sheriff Jeffrie Marley Jr. “Being only open from 8:30 until 4:30 does not provide an opportunity for everyone who works those same hours weekdays to get into the county building to get their application processed.”

Smith has theories as to why her department has been slammed recently with new and renewed passport requests.

“Berks County closed permanently as an accepted facility, and when I talked to Dauphin County, they said they were going to be closed a few more months and didn’t know when they were going to reopen,” said Smith. “We are seeing an influx of residents from those counties.”

Another reason for the spike in demand was two years in the making. 

“It really seems like people want to travel post-COVID,” said Smith. “I know that because the processing time (at federal facilities) has increased. It now takes 10 to 13 weeks to get your passport where it used to be eight to 10. So the passport facilities have been inundated themselves.” 

Smith noted that anyone wishing to travel internationally through the balance of 2023 and needs a new or renewed passport should apply for theirs now.

“They should get it as soon as possible, so that way you have it whenever you plan to travel,” said Smith. “Your passport is also your Real ID, and that’s important for people to understand. If for any reason a person is having issues getting their Real ID through PennDOT, their passport fulfills that requirement.”

Smith said no appointments are required on Saturday for those who travel to the county building to get their passports. Residents should park in the lot to the rear of the municipal building and enter the doors on that side of the building. There, sheriff’s deputies will answer questions and direct people to the appropriate destination.

“We do require appointments for those who come in during the week,” said Smith. “We are currently scheduling those appointments three weeks out, so that’s why we felt we needed a day, on Saturday, so people can come in and take care of this without having to worry about scheduling an appointment.”

Smith said office staff members will be available to assist residents who have questions or need assistance in filling out their passport application. Smith noted 10 employees – who will receive flex time for working this weekend – will be available to help make the process run smoothly for applicants.

“We really look forward to this,” said Smith. “It’s a fun day, a fast moving day, and it’s a good service to accommodate everyone who can’t get in during the work week.”

Marley isn’t sure what to expect with the concealed permit day since the application process recently changed within his department. He added his office processed 30 permits last year on concealed permit day, which was the first time the department offered that service on the weekend.

“The big thing with us is that we now offer this service online,” said Marley. “If I had to guess, we may not have as many (applicants) as we did last year. It’s much easier now for people to schedule an appointment once instead of twice. People used to apply for a permit here, then have to come back and get their picture taken at a later date. That all can be done in one visit thanks to the online service. But, I am interested in seeing what the numbers are going to be this weekend.” 

Read More: Online registration to be offered by county for concealed weapon permits

So far in 2023, Marley said his office has issued 1,428 new or renewed conceal permits. 

By comparison, in 2022 there were 2,561 issued; 4,105 issued in 2021; and 4481 for all of 2020, according to Marley, who added he does not know why the 2022 figure was down compared to the two previous years.

Anyone interested in renewing or getting a new concealed firearm permit this Saturday, should:

  • Bring $20 cash, check or money order for the processing fee.
  • Possess a valid driver’s license or authorized ID card proving you reside in Lebanon County. 
  • Be at least 21 years of age.
  • County residents who are registered aliens must have their current alien registration card with them.

Details for those wishing to obtain a passport are available below. Anyone who has questions can reach the prothonotary’s office at 717-228-4418.

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...