Attention, world travelers: Pender County will soon have its own passport office. The county’s Register of Deeds Office is in the process of adding that capability, according to Sharon Willoughby, Pender register of deeds.
“We’ve done our training and have already applied and received our pre-approval,” Willoughby said Friday. “Approval could take up to three months.”
That approval would come from Consular Affairs, a unit of the U.S. Department of State.
When the new Pender County passport acceptance function is up and running, it will be a one-stop shop for those wishing to apply for a passport. The Register of Deeds office will accept passport applications, make a copy of required identification documents and take a regulation passport photo, then bundle those items with the applicant's fee and send them off to Consular Affairs, which oversees passport issuance.
Willoughby decided to add the passport service because of demand.
“I saw it daily,” she said. “We issue all vital records for Pender County. People would come in to get their birth certificate so they could apply for a passport, and then they would ask if we could help them apply for the passport as well. But now they have to go either to Duplin County or New Hanover County.”
Already looking for ways to boost her office’s revenue, Willoughby decided that adding passport service would help achieve that goal, as well as providing a needed service to area residents.
For a while after the office receives its official approval, it will handle passport applications by appointment only, “because I’m not sure how busy we will be,” Willoughby said. “I’m not getting any more staff for this.”
If the service does produce significant revenue, Willoughby may request another employee to augment her team of six. She would also like to open a passport office in eastern Pender County to serve that fast-growing part of the county and surrounding areas of Onslow and New Hanover counties.