US State Department warns of 18-week wait times for passport applications

Jul 17, 2021

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Even if you don’t have any international trips on the horizon, now is an excellent time to get out your passport. After all, you’ll need an unexpired passport to travel internationally. And many destinations require that your passport has at least six months validity remaining and space for new entry and exit stamps.

The best time to check your passport’s expiration date is before you need it. After all, wait times for both new and renewal passport applications are currently longer than usual. In a special briefing last week, U.S. Department of State deputy assistant secretary for passport services Rachel Arndt told reporters that the wait time for new and renewal routine passport applications currently ranges from 12 to 18 weeks.

Customers can pay an additional $60 to expedite their application. But Arndt warned that expeditated applications still face wait times of up to 12 weeks. These estimates are from the day you submit your application to the day you receive your new passport. And the estimates include six weeks for mailing times on the front and back end, which may be an overly conservative estimate.

In the briefing, Arndt went on to note:

This means people who submit new passport applications right now will not get their new passport until well into the fall. Last-minute passport appointments are extremely limited. U.S. citizens who wish to travel overseas this summer and do not currently have a passport may need to make alternate travel plans.

Related: Learn from my experience: How to avoid a 5-week (and counting) passport renewal saga

I visited one of the U.S. Department of State’s passport agencies to apply for a second U.S. passport back in 2018. It was easy to get a non-emergency urgent travel appointment at the Atlanta passport agency when I did so. But, appointments are much more scarce now. I searched for last-minute passport appointments in the southeastern U.S. while writing this article and failed to find any appointments despite searching six different travel dates.

Arndt noted during the briefing that some third-party appointment booking services are selling passport appointments online. But you’ll want to avoid buying one of these appointments, as the Department of State is working to prevent these bookings. And Arndt said the State Department “may not be able to honor appointments booked via third party.” So, if you need a last-minute passport appointment, you’ll want to search frequently using the Department of State’s online passport appointment system website.

The State Department encourages travelers to check their passports — and their children’s passports — now. The department recommends applying for or renewing passports at least six months ahead of any possible travel. By doing so, you can save yourself unnecessary stress and avoid paying an extra fee to expedite your application. And once you submit your application, remember you can quickly check your passport application status online.

Related: Ready to travel? These are the 11 things you need to do before leaving home

Featured image by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy.

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