Need a Passport? Plan Ahead!
Passports can take 18 weeks to process due to the pandemic backlog. Don’t delay!
With international travel ramping up, the State Department currently has a backlog of more than one million passport applications, resulting in unprecedented delays.
Large numbers of vaccinated Americans resuming travel, lags in postal delivery of passport applications, and reduced State Department staffing have resulted in the perfect storm, with passports now taking up to 18 weeks—12 weeks to process and six weeks for mail delivery.
While in-person appointments at one of the nation’s 26 regional passport agencies are technically available for those within 72 hours of a trip, they are extremely limited, and primarily reserved for those with life-or-death emergencies. If you’ve submitted a passport application, you can check the status online. It’s extremely difficult to get through to the State Department with questions by phone. Those fortunate enough to connect with a live agent may be able to expedite service, but that can still take up to 12 weeks, which could be way too long if you’re scheduled to travel soon.
Here are some tips that may help usher your passport along:
- Request expedited service. For a $60 fee, plus an additional $17.56 for rush delivery, you can reduce the estimated turnround time from 18 to 12 weeks.
- If you’ve already applied, reach out to your local Congressional office for help. While not guaranteed, a Congressional inquiry may help expedite the process. A recent request to NJ Congressman Tom Malinowski’s office worked just this week, with passports arriving two days before an upcoming trip.
- Check social media for tips. It turns out that some regional passport agencies do accept walk-ins; they’re just not publicized. But beware of scammers offering appointments for a fee. Even if legitimate appointments are “for sale,” they’re non-transferrable, so you may run into issues when you arrive.
- Look for Special Passport Acceptance Fairs for first time applicants and children.
State Department officials expect delays to continue for some time, with those applying now not expected to receive passports until well into the fall. So even if you don’t have international travel plans scheduled, you may want to consider renewing your passport now—just in case your plans change.