Credit: Via Pixabay

The scores of soon-to-be married couples, prospective business owners and eager international travelers piling into the Montgomery County Circuit Court License Department will be thinned out come July, as the office will no longer process passport applications.

The department handles everything from distributing marriage licenses to recording military discharges to commissioning notary publics, and its first-floor room in the North Tower of the courthouse is routinely full of people.

Effective July 1, the office will cease handling passport applications.

The office issued 5,330 marriage applications and 10,611 business licenses in fiscal 2018, Clerk of the Court Barbara Meiklejohn said. Passport applications have declined rapidly in recent years, from more than 1,000 in fiscal 2016 to 116 in 2018.

The courthouse is not a full-service passport facility, meaning it doesn’t have photo capabilities or expedited processing like other locations around the state.

“We decided the resources we have in our licensing department, we could use them better,” Meiklejohn said. “We want to be able to process and perform more marriage ceremonies.”

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The department is open five days a week, which comes out to about 20 marriage licenses and 40 business applications a day. Marriage ceremonies are often booked two weeks in advance, Meiklejohn said.

More than 21 million U.S. passports were issued in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of State. That mark is the second-highest all-time since the department began grouping data by fiscal year in 1996. Fiscal 2017 edged 2018 by about 275,000 passports for the top spot.

Maryland had 374,231 passport applications in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of State, ranking 16th in the nation. California had 2.8 million passports issued, 1.3 million more than second-place Texas.

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There are currently 108 passport acceptance facilities in Maryland, according to the U.S. Department of State, including four in Gaithersburg, four in Rockville and three in Silver Spring, most of which are post offices. Only six of the facilities in the state are courthouses.

“Most of the courts have not done passports for the last 15, 20 years,” Meiklejohn said. “… It’s just a better use of our resources, since all the post offices are pretty much full-service now.”

The License Department website has a note about the pending change regarding passport applications. Meiklejohn said there haven’t been any complaints or negative feedback.

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The courthouse has notified the federal government to remove them from the passport facilities list at the end of June, though the department will technically be active through July so upcoming applications can be completed.

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdda-remix.newspackstaging.com