University of Iowa International Programs adds passport station

The University of Iowa International Programs office is opening a passport acceptance station on campus for students and community members.


Dimia Burrell

The International Programs office located in the University Capitol Centre in Iowa City on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. International Programs is opening the University of Iowa Passport Office within the same space.

Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, News Reporter

Students can now renew or apply for passports on campus.

The University of Iowa International Programs will open a passport station for students and the surrounding community, joining the list of resources for study abroad programs offered by UI International Programs.

Russell Ganim, associate provost and dean of UI International Programs, said the program has wanted to open a station at the UI since 2014. The passport acceptance facility opens Nov. 17 in the Old Capital Mall.

“The University of Iowa applied for approval to become a U.S. passport acceptance facility,” he said. “And we were turned down. I’m not exactly sure what the reasons were, but we did fill out an application that we sent to the U.S. Department of State and were denied.”

After the application was turned down, the International Programs office worked toward different goals instead, Ganim said. At the beginning of the pandemic, however, Ganim and his team decided to try the application process again.

“During COVID, we said to ourselves ‘well, let’s restart this passport acceptance application process,’” he said. “And so we did, and this time around we were approved.”

Ganim said the process of applying for a passport has become difficult for the public.

According to the United States Postal Service website, first-time applicants must complete a six-page application form and provide a photocopy of proof of identity, and a photocopy of proof of U.S. Citizenship. An applicant must also take a photo that adheres to the photo guidelines and have a post office employee witness their signature before submitting. At times, there can be passport fees that vary depending on the situation.

“It’s logistically difficult to go through the process,” Ganim said. “We wanted to create a community resource where people could find us easily.”

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The UI is also one of the few schools left in the Big Ten to not have a passport station on their campus, Ganim added. Indiana University Bloomington, University of Illinois, Purdue University, and University of Wisconsin all have Passport Acceptance Facilities.

“There are many offices of international programs within the Big Ten that also have passport acceptance facilities,” he said. “We wanted to emulate our Big Ten peers and then provide the service, as well.”

Another driving factor for the International Programs office to create this resource was because Iowa City no longer has a post office downtown, Ganim said.

Colin Behr, a second-year UI student planning to study abroad in Lyon, France, in spring 2023, said the new resource will make renewing his passport easier.

“I can’t go home very often,” Behr said. “It would be nicer to have [a passport center] on campus, and I would have quicker access to it.”

Ganim said some staff from International Programs had to undergo extensive training before they opened the passport station.

“They’ve gone through the official instructions that the U.S. Department of State requires for officials to process passports or to handle applications,” he said.

Ganim said those who were trained are a part of the International Students and Scholars Services staff and study abroad staff.

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Assistant Provost of International Programs Douglas Lee wrote that the program is looking forward to serving UI faculty, staff, students, and the Iowa City community with the station.

“We have a great team of [International Programs] staff who have completed extensive training and are ready to go,” he wrote.

Ganim said the passport station is not only a UI resource but also a community resource.

“We think, as part of our outreach mission, obviously we want to serve the University of Iowa committee, but we want to serve the community at large,” Ganim said.  “And so anyone really from the corridor can come in and get their passport, or apply for a first-time passport or get their passport renewed.”