Americans are traveling at an unprecedented rate this year as the post-pandemic surge continues. After huge lulls in 2020-21, they’re dusting off their passports and getting ready to set out. In a lot of cases, they’re discovering those passports are expired or about to expire. In record numbers, they’re applying for renewals with the State Department.
Overwhelmed by requests (more than half a million in some weeks over the winter) and still understaffed after pandemic cuts, the State Department has announced that routine applications are taking 10-13 weeks to process and that expedited renewals are taking seven to nine weeks. Those times could go up as we enter the busy summer travel season. If you’re applying by mail, that could add another four weeks to your wait.
“We are addressing the increased workload through a number of efforts. We are aggressively recruiting and hiring across our passport agencies and centers,” the State Department says on its website. “Our passport team members nationwide contribute tens of thousands of hours of overtime a month to issue the millions of passports sought by traveling Americans. We have opened a satellite office to help process the large number of applications we are receiving.”
It’s important to remember that even if your passport is still valid through your travel dates, most destinations require that U.S. passports be valid for at least three months after the trip ends, and some require six months’ validity.
As always, we advise to plan ahead, and to check your passports the second you want to start planning a trip. Adult passports are good for 10 years, with those issued to children younger than 16 good for five years. If yours is set to expire and you don’t think you’ll have time to renew it before your trip, reach out to your travel advisor. We work with services that can expedite processing and know what resources to turn to in emergency cases. A great trip starts with preparation, so check your passports today. Passport books cost $130 to renew (plus $35 for first-time applicants, and expedited service adds an additional $60. Third-party services and emergency cases may incur additional fees.