Winter is the season of holiday celebrations, of New Year resolutions, and snowy wonderlands. But it’s also the season of delays.
If you need expedited passports or visas during the winter months, you would be well advised to act as quickly as possible. As soon as you know you’re going to need some travel document or another, start making arrangements, because — especially in our beloved home city of Chicago – winter weather can complicate matters in a hurry.
Did you know that UPS hires 95,000 temporary workers during the winter holidays to help account for the surge in deliveries? This year they also charged a 27-cent surcharge for all packages delivered to US residents during certain weeks. But even with those added measures, there were still delays. Now the holidays have passed, but the delays haven’t. Services like UPS, FedEx, and the good-old-fashioned USPS all experience delays when snow and other severe weather hits.
Delays are also a big issue with the airlines during winter. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is the second-busiest airport in the country, and it ranks third in the country for weather delays. Only about 80% of flights arrive and depart on time, and almost half of all the delay minutes that O’Hare passengers sit through are due to weather issues. Altogether, Chicago averages 28 days of snow per year and 38 days of thunderstorms, which is more than any other airport in the northeast. On top of that, wind – even on sunny days – can cause weather delays in Chicago, and so can the city’s thirteen annual days of fog.
Bad weather can also cause businesses and government agencies to close their doors, and that can include international consulates. If you need to submit an application to the Chinese Consulate or Russian Consulate, don’t expect them to be open and ready to serve you on days of heavy snow fall. Always call ahead to make sure that any offices you need to visit will actually be open before you trek out into the sleet or snow.
And let’s not forget that winter 2018 is also the season on the government shutdown! Fortunately, the first (and hopefully only) shutdown is already behind us, but in the next few weeks, it’s quite possible that the federal government could shutdown again, and if it does, that could mean passport application delays. The good news is that the State Department’s passport services are partially funded by the fees that you pay, so a government shutdown doesn’t mean that all passport services would stop immediately. But a prolonged shutdown would certainly start to cause passport and visa delays.
The moral of the story is simple – if you need passports or expedited visas anytime soon, act sooner than later, because you never know what the winter might throw at you.