The US State Department is planning to gradually reopen passport services in three phases this summer as part of the U.S. Department of State's Diplomacy Strong plan, which follows guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for safely reopening. Each passport agency and center will open on a different date based on local conditions.Phase 1 of the reopening will consist of a limited number of employees focused on life-or-death emergencies first, while the second phase will call for the majority of employees to return to work processing applications on a "first come, first served" basis.All remaining employees will return in Phase 3 and the agency will begin offering expedited processing. The hope from the State Department is the staggered approach will keep employees and customers safe."We continue to experience significant delays in passport processing, as our staff are unable to process applications from home due to strict standards for security and privacy protection for customers. This includes applications by customers who already applied for routine service at passport acceptance facilities or who mailed in renewal applications since March. We ask for your patience as we gradually resume normal operations and address COVID-19 related processing delays"."We are committed to working as hard as we can to process applications as quickly as possible, as soon as it is safe for us to do so".To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our workforce and customers, the department significantly reduced passport operations in March 2020. It temporarily suspended expedited passport processing and restricted service to cases involving life-or-death emergencies.