The Buffalo Passport Agency is expanding. Officials say the downtown office is becoming an increasingly important center for passport processing and now draws customers from other cities including Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York City.
The Buffalo office first opened in 2010 on the 100 block of Genesee Street and has gained a reputation for its ability to process and issue passports within one business day. On Tuesday, a ceremonial ribbon was cut to celebrate the introduction of two new service windows within the Genesee Street office.
While expanding from five to seven windows may not seem significant, agency director James Theis says it will help local staff process up to 160 passports per day.
The Buffalo Passport Agency serves 51 of New York State's 62 counties and also welcomes customers from Cleveland and Pittsburgh, as well as anyone who needs a passport arranged in short time.
Officials say so far in fiscal year 2017, the Buffalo office has processed nearly a quarter-million passports and aided an estimated 10,000 customers in need of urgent service.
"These days, people drive from New York City to come to Buffalo for passports when there are huge lines and waiting times at east coast passport agencies," Theis said. "People who are having trouble getting into some of those agencies and they have to travel in a hurry, some of them come to Buffalo."
Among those present to celebrate the expansion was Brenda Sprague, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services. She said the Buffalo Passport Agency has done a good job balancing efficiency with security.
"This agency manages to do it and does it correctly and with appropriate attention to all the rules and regulations, so that the only people who get passports are those who are entitled," Sprague said. "And our second mission is no missed trips."
Congressman Brian Higgins and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown also offered remarks at the ceremony. The latter revealed he is not just a mayor but also a previous customer.
"I put my application in, in the morning, and I had my passport before the close of business that same day," he said. "It is working."