Demand Drives Passport Delays Over 3 Months

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passportIt’s not too late to apply for a U.S. passport if you’re booking international travel for 2024, but time is running short for those who want to get away this year.

The U.S. State Department is currently estimating a 10-13 week wait for routine processing of new passport applications and passport renewals. Paying the $60 fee for expedited processing can shorten the wait to 7-9 weeks—better, but still too late for anyone with summer travel plans.

“I highly recommend renewing your passport far in advance of the ‘required’ six months needed for most countries,” said Stacy Small, founder of Elite Travel Club, a luxury travel agency based in Santa Rosa, California. “With the world reopened and everyone back to traveling more and further than ever, there is still a backlog, and the best way to avoid stress over not having a current passport is to renew it earlier than you think necessary.”

High Volume Of Passport Applications Creating Backlog

The wait times are up from 2022, when normal processing was estimated to take 7-11 weeks, and expedited orders could be expected to be received in 5-7 weeks. A high volume of passport applications is causing longer processing waits, according to the State Department.

“As more Americans are traveling internationally again, we are directing resources to meet the unprecedented demand seen so far in 2023,” the agency noted in a March announcement. “We are on track to set the record for the highest demand year ever, far surpassing volumes seen during previous surges in demand 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.”

Keep in mind that the clock starts ticking on processing when a complete and correct application is received at a passport processing agency or center, not when it is mailed. With the State Department estimating that it can take up to two weeks for a passport application to arrive by mail, travelers in a rush should consider either overnight delivery or submitting their application in person at a passport center.

For people with travel plans within 9 weeks, the State Department does offer limited opportunities for “urgent travel” appointments at passport agencies or centers, which could (but is not guaranteed to) result in faster processing time. These appointments must be scheduled within 14 days of planned international travel or, if an application has already been submitted, within 5 days of travel.

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