On Friday, the U.S. State Department confirmed what so many future international travelers have found out over the past few weeks and month—it is taking longer than ever to renew a passport.
According to the State Department’s update, routine applications are now taking between 10 and 13 weeks, while expedited applications are now taking between 7 and 9 weeks.
Those timelines do not include mailing times—the State Department said that it may take up to two weeks for applications to be mailed, and another two weeks for them to be mailed back, so routine applications could now take up to 17 weeks, or more than four months, from time of mailing.
Just a few months ago, the time for standard renewal was six to nine weeks.
The main reason for the longer processing time is the higher demand for passports—2023 is on track to set the record for the highest demand year ever for passports, far surpassing its previous record years in 2007 and 2017.
“During some weeks this winter, the Department received more than 500,000 applications, the highest number ever for this time of year, exceeding our official projections,” the State Department said in its latest update.
There are plans to try and lower those processing times—the State Department is “aggressively recruiting and hiring,” offering overtime to its current employees, and opening satellite offices to help process the large number of applications coming in.
The State Dept. had also been allowing some to renew their passport online. The online portal, which was technically still in testing mode, was open as recently as January, giving passport holders the chance to do everything online. However, that portal is now closed and while the State Dept. told TMR that the plan is to roll it out fully sometime this year, that’s not an option for travelers right now.
Still, the best thing international travelers can do right now is to apply for their passports as early as possible.
“We are committed to transparency and will continue to provide regular updates about passport processing times, and to encourage Americans to apply for their passport well in advance of any planned international travel to avoid last-minute issues.”
Those who are traveling with less time to spare are able to schedule an in-person appointment at a regional passport agency in order to expedite the process. Those appointments can be scheduled only via a phone call and only within 2 weeks of the travel date. Applicants will be required to provide proof of travel when making the appointment.