Potential international travelers got some good news this week when the U.S. State Department cut the estimate time for passport renewal.
On Monday, the U.S. State Department announced that the wait time for a standard passport renewal is now 8 to 11 weeks, down from 10 to 13 weeks earlier in the summer. The 8 to 11-week timeline is the same as the summer of 2022, but still longer than the 4 to 6 weeks the State Department was estimating in 2019.
At the same time, the State Department announced a new timeline for expedited renewal—passports expedited through the State Department will now take 5 to 7 weeks.
The State Department also said it has issued more than 24 million passport books and cards between October 2022 and September 2023, the most in its history for a single fiscal year.
“Our dedicated staff have worked countless hours to reduce passport processing times. We are continuously reassessing our operations to maximize efficiencies and are introducing innovations to our customer service and processing models,” it said in a statement this week.
“We are investing in supporting and modernizing our technology, increased staffing levels by ten percent, and have hundreds of additional staff in the hiring pipeline. We remain focused on lowering processing times, and this reduction is an important first step.”
One way that the State Department expects to improve the process is by finally launching a full-working online passport renewal option (OPR). A pilot OPR program was first launched in February 2022, first exclusively for federal government employees and contractors. It was then expanded to the public in August 2022, and, since then, more than 565,000 passports have been renewed by the online system.
The OPR was closed in the beginning of March in order to make improvements to the system. A spokesperson told TMR in June that it expected to open it to the public once again “at the end of the year.” Starting then, five million Americans will be able to use the portal each year to renew their passports, which would represent two-thirds of all renewals and roughly 25% of all applications.