U.S. Travelers Face Long Wait Times for Passport Renewals

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(July, 2021)

As international travel begins to return, the timing to process a passport renewal has increased to nearly twice as long as before the pandemic. Previously, a routine service was between six and eight weeks for a passport renewal. Now, travelers could end up waiting for 12 to 18 weeks to receive their renewed documents or up to 12 weeks for expedited applications.

Why are Passport Renewals Taking so Long?

The ripple effects of Covid-19 have caused a backlog of renewals, starting with the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs going into lockdown for many months in 2020, followed by a limited reopening mid year to help process the backlog of passports that had been submitted.  Although the offices are all now fully reopened, there still remains a shortage of staff as well as the compounded delays via the mail service while an estimated 2 million passports are sitting in a backlog of requests. 

Options for Renewing Passports

Renew by Mail 

Adults with 10 year passports can renew by mail instead of appearing in person. This process includes up to 12 weeks for processing time, and up to 6 weeks for mailing times back and forth.

  • It is recommended to send your application to the Bureau of Consult Affairs through trackable mail, so that you can track the mail before it enters their system.
  • Consider paying an extra $17.56 for 1-2 day delivery for the return of your completed passport.
  • Travelers can check the full list of eligibility requirements on the USPS website

Renew In-Person

If travelers do not meet the requirements for mail-in renewal, they will need to set up an appointment in person for renewal. 

  • This can be done through their local USPS Post Office, or through a passport agency or center. Most appointments are currently booked out several weeks in advance. 
  • Once the appointment is booked, travelers will receive an email listing the required documents to bring to their appointment.

Exception for Overseas Citizens

There is an extension in place for U.S. citizens who are currently overseas, and whose passports expired on or after Jan. 1, 2020. These travelers are able to use their current passport to re-enter the United States until Dec. 31, 2021. It’s important to note that these expired documents can only be used to re-enter the U.S., they can not be used to travel to other countries.

Expedited Services

Although the recommendation is to either apply or renew your passport 6 months in advance of your trip, we understand that there are instances when this is not possible.

  • Expedited services cost an additional $60 and can be applied when renewing your passport.  
  • Passport Renewal Services: Travel Incorporated partners with CIBTVisas, who offer services to assist travelers in quickly obtaining the documents required for international travel, such as travel visas and passports. 
  • There are several other services similar to this across the U.S. that may be able to help travelers obtain their necessary documents more quickly. Travelers can search for expedited services central to their location through passportsandvisas.com and select one that best suits their needs.

Online Tools for Information and to Track Application Process

Many services are available online to help track and obtain the information you need for applying for, or renewing your passport. These services include :

  • Find, download, fill out and print forms
  • Check the status of your application
  • Report a passport lost or stolen
  • Locate a passport acceptance facility 
  • Review Frequently Asked Questions

Lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation on Thursday, July 22, which would require the Biden administration to submit a plan to eliminate the massive U.S. passport backlog. In the meantime, travelers should plan ahead and assess the options available to them to ensure they have their necessary documents in time for travel.

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