Passport services may return to Coffman Union

The Hennepin County Service Center failed an audit in October.

by Kia Farhang

Students will soon be able to apply for passports again in Coffman Union.

The Hennepin County Service Center failed an audit in October, said Mark Chapin, director of taxpayer services, but is close to having its passport services reinstated.

The Coffman location still handles other official documents, like birth certificates and driver’s licenses. But new regulations effective May 1 will require passports to be separated from all other official documents, so a second campus location may be necessary.

Officials handled almost 250 passport applications at the Coffman location in 2012, Chapin said.

A U.S. Department of State audit in October repealed the Hennepin County Service Center’s ability to handle passport applications, Chapin said.

“We didn’t follow their rules to the T,” Chapin said.

Four other county service centers — Southdale, Ridgedale, Maple Grove and Brookdale — still handle passport applications.

The Department of State didn’t return multiple calls for comment.

Passport services should be available to students at the University, biochemistry freshman Paige Larson said.

“I feel like if there’s study abroad programs, there should be something correlated to it,” Larson said.

The Learning Abroad Center tells students where to go for passport services but doesn’t walk them through the process, said Lindsey Lahr, resource center adviser at the LAC.

“It’s a step in the process of being independent,” Lahr said.

LAC handouts used to list the Coffman location as one place students could go to file applications, but they now refer students to other locations.

“It was really nice to have one on campus,” Lahr said.

The Hennepin County Service Center has been working to rectify any problems pointed out in the audit, regional manager Bruce Jindra said.

“The few things we know about were corrected within a few days,” Jindra said.

He said there have been more regulations in the past five years because of national security concerns.

“It adds a level of difficulty that I wish we didn’t have to deal with,” Jindra said.

Neuroscience freshman Katia Stie said one of her friends almost missed her study abroad trip because something went wrong with her passport application at the last minute.

“She was freaking out,” Stie said.

She added having resources on campus would cut down travel time and make it easier to sort out problems.

Jindra said he hopes the center in Coffman can handle passport applications again soon.

“It’s a valuable service, we’re glad to be able to provide it and we’d like to see it continue.”