Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi reminds county residents to apply for their passports as soon as possible. With the National Passport Agency experiencing high volume in processing applications, the Clerk suggests using expedited services to avoid disrupting travel plans.

"If you are traveling within 14 days, my office can assist you by making an appointment with the National Passport Agency," Rajoppi said. "It requires a trip to New York or Philadelphia, but you will receive your passport within 24 hours."

"The current demand for passports has created a slower response time from the National Passport Agency," Rajoppi added. "Residents who have summer or autumn travel plans should consider using the expedited delivery option when applying for a new passport or a renewal. Even the expedited mail option, which costs $60 extra, can take two to three weeks for delivery."

Passport customers should allow a sufficient amount of time to mail their application and receive their passport before traveling. The routine processing of passport applications - without the more expensive expedited delivery option - can take four to six weeks. Applications may be obtained at the County Clerk's main office in the Union County Courthouse, 2 Broad Street in Elizabeth, or at the Clerk's office annex, 300 North Avenue East in Westfield. Applications and related information also can be found online at http://www.ucnj.org/ctyclerk/passport.html

"Our Elizabeth office opens at 7:30 a.m. and it has experienced, helpful, English and Spanish-speaking staff ready to assist you in any way we can," Rajoppi said. "Our Westfield office has convenient evening and Saturday hours and is fully staffed also."

The Westfield Annex is the only County Clerk's office in the state that is open during evening hours. The Westfield Annex is open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. The phone number at the Westfield Annex is 908-654-9859.

The Elizabeth office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The phone number in Elizabeth is 908-527-4966.

Clients are asked to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to closing time to allow for staff assistance with the passport process. For more information about obtaining a U.S. passport, please call (908) 527-4966.