Need to renew your passport? You could be waiting six months, reports say

Americans with expired passports may have to wait up to six months due to massive backlog

Close-up of American passport - stock photo
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If you’re planning on taking a trip overseas anytime soon, you might want to check your passport’s expiration date. The US State Department is advising travelers to renew their passports at least six months prior to travel as there is a massive backlog due to an overwhelming number of passport applications.

Now that some countries are lifting travel restrictions, most of us are already making vacation plans. But Americans who have mailed in their passports for renewal have already begun expressing their frustrations, as the State Department is now saying passports submitted through the mail can be expected back in up to 18 weeks, or 12 weeks if an applicant pays extra for expedited processing.

The department’s assistant secretary for passport services, Rachel Arndt, told the Wall Street Journal there is currently a backlog of between 1.5 million and 2 million passport applications. Top Congress lawmakers, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks and Ranking Member Michael McCaul wrote to the department on Monday urging them to cut down on processing time and extending assistance from Congress.

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woman with suitcase and passport

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Before the pandemic, application processing times ranged from six to eight weeks but could be cut down to two to three weeks if travelers paid extra for expedited applications. 

Currently, there are limited in-person appointments available since not all staff members have returned to the office due to COVID-19. Rachel advised that a return of staff won’t cut down processing times right away either. 

Those who apply for new passports now probably won't be updated until “ well into the fall,” she told the newspaper. If you were hoping to book a holiday in Portugal or explore the underground level of Italy’s Colosseum, you may have to plan for a vacation in the US instead.

Rylee Johnston

Rylee is a U.S. news writer who previously worked for woman&home and My Imperfect Life covering lifestyle, celebrity, and fashion news. Before joining woman&home and My Imperfect Life, Rylee studied journalism at Hofstra University where she explored her interests in world politics and magazine writing. From there, she dabbled in freelance writing covering fashion and beauty e-commerce for outlets such as the TODAY show, American Spa Magazine, First for Women, and Woman’s World.