Now up to 13 weeks: Why you should renew your passport for summer travel now
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
Although your mind may still be on spring break, it's time to plan your summer vacation if you haven’t done so already.
These 11 things should be on your summer travel checklist, including renewing your U.S. passport.
As of late March, passport processing times have increased for applications submitted on or after March 24; it can now take 10-13 weeks for routine processing and seven to nine weeks for expedited service.
This delayed service is expected, following confirmation to TPG earlier this month reflecting the agency's upcoming busy season with summer travel. Demand for passports has soared, with 30% to 40% more requests than at the same time last year, according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Historically, the demand’s been cyclical; the busy season is kind of March to late summer. Basically, it’s full-time now," Blinken said at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Before spring break, the U.S. Department of State quoted eight to 11 weeks for routine passport service and five to seven for expedited service.
Regardless, they advise travelers to renew a minimum of six months ahead of planned travel. It’s also important to renew since most countries require visitors’ passports to be valid for at least six months after their scheduled return date.
Current processing times
For applicants between Feb. 6 and March 23, processing times remain what they were initially quoted: eight to 11 weeks for routine and five to seven weeks for expedited. Those who submitted applications before Feb. 6 should expect routine service within six to nine weeks and three to five weeks for expedited.
Quoted wait times do not include mailing times, which may contribute additional weeks to the door-to-door time it takes to receive your passport.
The agency processed nearly 22 million passport products in 2022. It's on track to exceed that number this year with half a million passports per week, according to Rachel Arndt, deputy assistant secretary for Passport Services.
The agency processed more passports in 2022 than ever before. They credit this to pent-up travel demand among those who would’ve applied during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This delayed demand led to a backlog of applications and longer-than-average wait times across the board for some U.S. government agency services, including passport services. The four Trusted Traveler Programs run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, Nexus and Sentri) were also affected, though to a lesser degree.
Even so, processing times continue to decrease from what they were during the height of the pandemic. Case in point: I went on a self-induced wild goose chase to attempt to retroactively renew my passport in June 2021, when routine processing times were 18 weeks.
Although I eventually received my passport seven weeks later, Arndt says travelers should be able to retroactively expedite their passport applications after the fact by calling 877-487-2778. Before you call, check your status online to see where your passport is in the process.
I shared my own experience of being unable to connect with someone at the National Passport Center via phone (which mirrors stories from others I’ve heard). Arndt said the agency is “meeting customer expectations” on average, with “millions of phone calls per year” to “provide service in a timely manner to most of our customers.”
If applicants pay the extra $60 for expedited service and don’t receive their passports in the provided expedited timeframe, they can apply for a refund.
Other things to know
For urgent international travel, you can attempt to make a limited in-person appointment for two circumstances:
- For emergency circumstances — such as a death — requiring travel within 72 hours or three business days, you must provide proof of a qualifying incident.
- For nonemergency travel within 14 days, or if you need a foreign visa within 28 calendar days, you must provide proof of travel.
Life-or-Death Emergency Service and Urgent Travel Service appointments can only be made via phone.
Online passport renewal remains unavailable as the agency implements customer feedback to improve the process. Though they anticipate rolling out online passport renewal services for applicants later this year, the timing is TBD, despite previously announcing a March implementation date.
Even so, processing times mirror those done in person or via mail.
Regardless of your travel plans, submit your passport as early as possible for processing, as times will likely increase with the summer travel uptick. This means you should renew your passport now for summer if you haven’t already done so.
"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," Blinken said.
Additional reporting by Clint Henderson.
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