United States Passport Processing Times Extended Again

With many passport applications on backlog, the timetable to get a passport in the United States is taking much longer than normal.

If you are from the United States and expecting to travel out of the country within the next few months, you may need to check into getting your passport processing done as soon as possible. It should come as no shock that with most countries now open to tourism without having to do a lot of testing or isolation, numerous people want to travel again. The COVID Pandemic was horrific for the travel and tourism industry, but everything is picking up now.

This is good for those industries but negatively affects the United States passport processing.

If you’re planning an international trip soon and you need a new passport, you might be waiting a lot longer than you’d like. It seems that the processing period has been moving at the speed of a snail on ice. A lot of the problem has to do with the Bureau of Consular Affairs. After the Pandemic hit in 2020, they decided to limit its staffing or even pause operations nationwide at numerous passport centers and offices. This alone caused a huge backlog of passports that need to be processed.

This is something they are STILL catching up on, and now there is a new surge of applicants trying to travel internationally. People trying to get a passport renewed or even get their very first one are now unable to get anything going. The Bureau caused its own problems with this, but now the entire country is experiencing the problem of what happens when you essentially shut operations down even when you clearly have processing that needed to be done.


At Least They Warned Us

Antony Blinken At EU Commission Meeting

[Image via Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.com]

In recent weeks, the U.S. State Department has attempted to make the public aware that there will be long delays in getting their applications and renewals approved. At the same time, once it is approved, that does not mean you’ll get the passport itself issued immediately. This could take quite a while.

The State Department has claimed the issue is simply down to “unprecedented demand.” They also issued a statement on Twitter this past Friday, stating that it could take 10 to 13 weeks for the physical passport ID to be sent out following your passport approval. That is not including any mailing time, which could add on a few more weeks depending on your location.

Oh, but since this IS a capitalist United States Government we’re talking about here….they do offer something known as “expedited processing” that’ll cost someone an extra $60 on top of the other passport processing fees. Yet even this is taking a long time to take place. Even those who opt for this option will be waiting 7 to 9 weeks, again not adding in mailing time.

Of course, this is actually worse compared to what they were previously doing. Earlier in the year, they were processing things from 8 to 11 weeks for normal passport approvals and the expedited option took just 5 to 7 weeks. Thus, things are not getting better but worse. In fact, you’re waiting just as long as the typical waiting period for the expedited option right now.


The Massive Passport Demand

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

[Image via Mircea Moira/Shutterstock.com]

Clearly, we can understand having a huge backlog as well as the normal influx of passports being needed closer to the summer months. Yet people really do not understand just how many applications are coming in right now. According to U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the agency is seeing “500,000 applications a week for passports.”

That number is mind-blowing when you think about it. If true, it would be between 30 to 40% more applications than this time last year. Blinken told the House Appropriations Subcommittee during a budget hearing that “historically, the demand’s been cyclical, the busy season is kind of March to late summer. Basically, it’s full-time now.”

Of course, Blinken did try to offer some reassurance that the department is trying to address the problem. He claimed:

“We’ve hired staff to increase the adjudicative capacity to make sure that…we’ve got the customer service phone lines manned, we have more people in the pipeline and that’s also reflected in the budget. It’s hugely important. A task force [was] established at headquarters to marshal all of these efforts so that we’re really digging in on this. We were authorizing overtime, we’ve opened satellite offices, [and] we’re organizing cores at the headquarters to assist in processing/processing times. I think it’s really important that we be as clear and transparent as possible with people who are looking for passports to know what they can expect.”


Online Passport Renewal

United States Passport

[Image via Piaphotography/Shutterstock.com]

There have been a lot of issues in the world of passport processing for years as it is. Thus, a new pilot program was created to do online passport renewals. This would heavily cut down on the issues theoretically. The program was launched in 2022 but was shut down in early February 2023 due to bugs in the system that still need to be fixed before it can be made available again.

The State Secretary said this program simply had to be halted…

“To make sure that we can fine-tune it and improve it before we roll it out in a bigger way. We expect that 65 percent of renewal customers for passports will be able to do so online once this program is fully up and running.”

This makes sense and it’s clear that with 65% going the online route eventually, the backlog will be cut down for them and future issues will be cut down dramatically for travelers.

Some people are panicking about not hearing anything about their passports, even though they sent everything in to get approval weeks to months ago. This is something the Bureau is taking seriously. Thus, they have launched a webpage fully dedicated to this issue. It offers resources and even agency contact information to assist those applicants who need their passports delivered urgently.

It is possible that things can be moved along faster for those who need to leave the country for a special reason, such as a family issue, a wedding, or something else that is time-sensitive.