In a move that it hopes helps ease some of the long waiting times for passport renewals, the State Department is launching a series of in-person events to help Americans apply for passports.
The U.S. State Department this week announced a series of Special Passport Acceptance Fairs that will allow Americans to apply for their passports in person. Most of the events are for first-time customers and children, so those looking for renewal will still have to do so by mail.
The events will run through July and August at libraries, post offices, and other venues in a number of different cities, mostly in New Jersey, California, and Florida, with a smaller number in Georgia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Some of the events do require appointments ahead of time, while others are allowing for walk-ins.
The events only offer routine and expedited service and those who need a passport for “urgent travel” are still being told to make an appointment at a passport agency or center.
The full details, including links to make appointments, are available on the State Department’s website.
Passport renewal and applications have quickly become an issue for Americans looking to travel this summer, a season that is expected to set some records for the U.S. travel industry. According to the latest update from the U.S. State Department, the processing times for a passport renewal are now 10 to 13 weeks for routine processing. That does not include the mailing time, which could add an extra four weeks (two to get to the passport agency and two to get arrive back to the applicant).
That means that, with mailing time included, it could take up to 17 weeks to renew a passport and get it back in the mail, which could heavily impact the busy summer travel season if travelers aren’t planning.
Applicants can pay an extra $60 (on top of the $130 it already costs) to expedite it, which would cut down the renewal time to 7 to 9 weeks. Those who need it quicker than 7 weeks (traveling internationally within 14 calendar days), can schedule an appointment with a passport agency or center.
Some have had success contacting their local representative to get passports turned around quicker, however, there is no guarantee that will work.
There is also currently no option for Americans to renew their passports online, which had been an option earlier this year as part of an online passport renewal (OPR) pilot. The OPR was first launched as a pilot by the U.S. State Department in February 2022, first exclusively for federal government employees and contractors. The OPR was expanded to the public in August 2022 and, since then, more than 565,000 passports have been renewed by the online system.