The new Washington Passport Agency in Foggy Bottom. On Oct. 28, the State Department moved its expedited passport agency and visa office a half-mile south on 19th Street NW, from No. 1111 to No. 600. The geographical distance is slight, but the improvements in operations and aesthetics are substantial. (James Pan, Official Photographer, U.S. Department of State)
(James Pan/U.S. Department of State)

In Washington, beleaguered by red tape and bureaucracy, even the simplest of tasks can take forever. So the fact that the State Department was notified of an issue and fixed it within two months is, well, quite extraordinary.

Manhattan immigration attorney Reaz H. Jafri, a partner at Withers Bergman, wrote to the State Department in December after several clients who wanted to renounce their U.S. citizenship had to give up their passports in the interim and then were not able to travel. They were, as Jafri put it, “in no man’s land.”

In February, he received an e-mail that State’s Foreign Affairs Manual had been revised to instruct diplomats that a U.S. passport can be returned to the “intended expatriate” if she or he needs to travel to the United States before the “loss of nationality case is approved.”

“I’ve been practicing law for 23 years, I’ve never seen the government move so fast and so efficiently,” he said. “It amazes me that no one ever brought it up … the merits to our position were so logical. So they went ahead and changed it.”

A state spokesman confirmed Jafri’s account — that he’d notified them of the “anomaly” and that state’s lawyers examined it and swiftly made the change.

Jafri had told the State Department about citizens living abroad who weren’t able to travel while waiting for their approved Certificate of Loss of Nationality because their passports were taken. But since they were still U.S. citizens, they  couldn’t get travel visas. In one case, a woman wanted to return to America to visit her ill father  but couldn’t, and he passed away, Jafri said.

“I presented the issue in a way where they saw the face to it,” he said.

In recent years, the number of U.S. citizens living abroad and giving up their passports has shot up (even Tina Turner relinquished her U.S. citizenship) as the federal government has cracked down harder on collecting revenue from American income earned abroad.

Who says the government can’t move fast?