SAN DIEGO -- Schools in Yakima, Wash., are taking nearly a month to deliver transcripts to former students. The Mexican consulate in Denver introduced Saturday hours last month after passport applications spiked by one-third. San Diego public schools added five employees in a new office to handle records requests.

Schools and consulates have been flooded with requests for documents after President Barack Obama announced a new program allowing young people living in the country illegally to apply for two-year renewable work permits. Up to 1.7 million people may qualify, which would be the broadest stroke to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows in more than 25 years. Applicants -- some eager to get in line before November's presidential elections -- are finding they may have to wait a few weeks longer for a prize that has eluded them for years.

The clamor for documents is an early sign that the policy is highly popular. The Obama administration said this month that it approved the first 29 applications among more than 82,000 received since it began accepting requests Aug. 15.

The Mexican consulate in Los Angeles issued 17,444 passports and consular identification cards in August, up 63 percent from the same period last year, said Consul General David Figueroa, who attributes the entire increase to the new policy. The wait for a passport appointment at the largest Mexican consulate grew from one or two days to 40 days last month, then fell to 30 days after the consulate hired five employees to handle the increased workload.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently clarified expectations, relieving applicants who worried they would need exhaustive proof of their whereabouts. Eligible applicants must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16, be 30 or younger, be high school graduates or in college, or have served in the military, and they cannot have serious criminal records. They also must have lived in the country since June 2007.

The new guidelines, issued Sept. 14, say applicants should provide as much evidence "as reasonably possible" that they stayed in the U.S. -- ideally for every year -- but that they don't have to account for every day of the last five years.

The government also reassured employers who were nervous about providing evidence that they hired an illegal immigrant. Documents will not be used against employers unless they committed "egregious violations of criminal statues or widespread abuses."

Laura Lichter, a Denver attorney and president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the new guidelines alleviated many concerns for applicants.

"I have to compliment (the government) for doing an excellent job of getting good, solid information out there," said Lichter, adding that she rarely praises the authorities.

Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a critic of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, called the latest changes an example of how the Obama administration "routinely puts illegal immigrants first at the expense of the American people."

"Administration officials intentionally made these guidelines vague enough so that potentially millions of illegal immigrants can qualify. And now the administration has revised their guidelines to be specific enough to protect unscrupulous employers from facing legal action for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants that have applied for the amnesty program," he said.