Passport Application Wait Times Are Taking Up to 18 Weeks, State Department Says
"The pandemic's disruptions continue to have a ripple effect on all steps of the passport process, including the amount of time it currently takes us to process a passport application."
Passport applications are currently taking up to 18 weeks to process and the State Department says it "will take time" before that long waiting period eases.
The State Department currently has an application backlog of between 1 and a half million to 2 million applications, which is "somewhat higher" than normal, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt told reporters in a news briefing last week.
"We as a department continue to recover from the effects of COVID-19 while we work to meet passport demand as U.S. citizens increasingly seek to travel overseas again," Arndt said. "However, the pandemic's disruptions continue to have a ripple effect on all steps of the passport process, including the amount of time it currently takes us to process a passport application."
She added: "U.S. citizens who wish to travel overseas this summer and do not currently have a passport may need to make alternate travel plans."
Anyone who wants to renew their passports right now is looking at wait times of up to 18 weeks (12 weeks for processing and up to six weeks for mailing), according to the State Department. Expedited service, which costs an extra $60, is currently taking up to 12 weeks (up to six weeks for processing and up to six weeks for mailing).
Travelers can also choose to pay an additional $17.56 for one to-two-day delivery for the return of their completed passport.
In addition to long wait times, Arndt said last-minute appointments are "extremely limited." These in-person appointments are available for life-or-death emergency services and urgent travel services.
Arndt said the State Department was "ramping up our staffing" to manage the application backlog.
The State Department has agreed to honor expired passports for Americans who are currently abroad and looking to return to the U.S. until the end of the year.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.