The surge in applications – 400,000 a week in June – has left travelers with upcoming trips abroad thwarting or, in the worst case, deadlining their plans. To avoid problems, here is what you need to know if you are about to submit your application or if your documents are already being processed.
Waiting times for passports have increased again. Don’t let them spoil your trip.
Where there are delays and processing times for passports
In late March, the State Department extended processing times to 10 to 13 weeks for routine filings and seven to nine weeks for expedited filings. The agency said it hopes to return to pre-pandemic times of six to eight weeks and two to three weeks by the end of the year.
“The Department is seeing an increase in demand for passports and in a few weeks we are seeing twice the number of pending applications as at the same time in FY2022,” the State Department said via email. In the last fiscal year, the department received more than 18.6 million applications and issued nearly 22 million passport books and cards.
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To meet demand, the agency is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach. In addition to hiring new employees, the department also allows overtime. From January to June, 30,000 to 40,000 monthly overtime hours were approved. Retirees and new employees are also involved.
The agency said as of June 22 it had issued more than 97 percent of passports within the stated processing times, if not sooner. However, for security reasons, travelers should apply at least six months before their trip. Be sure to consider shipping time – outbound and inbound. To save some time, use expedited shipping ($60) and Priority Mail Express (around $20), which takes a day or two to deliver.
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How to get a passport quickly
Travelers with upcoming trips or a “life or death emergency” have a few additional options. If your departure is within two weeks, call the National Passport Information Center to schedule an appointment with a passport center or agency. The facilities do not accept spontaneous visitors and appointments are limited. If the location is booked near you, you may have to travel a distance or even board a plane to get to a passport agency. Locations can be found here.
The life or death emergency category includes individuals who must travel because a family member living outside the United States has died, is dying, or has a life-threatening illness or injury. You can book your appointment up to two weeks in advance, but the appointment cannot be more than three days before your trip. You must bring documentation of the emergency and proof of your travel plans.
You can also contact your state legislature for help, although this approach is not safe. On his website, Rep. John Sarbanes informs his Maryland constituents that they can apply for passport assistance, but warns, “Please note that my office will make every effort to assist you, but cannot guarantee that.” a passport is issued beforehand.’ Travel.’
Where can I travel without a passport?
Of course, you don’t need a passport to visit any of the 50 states. Nor do you need it for several US territories that seem worlds away, like Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. A driver’s license is sufficient for the areas in the Caribbean. Guam requires visitors to present an original or a certified copy of their birth certificate in addition to government-issued ID. A South Pacific exit ticket is required for American Samoa.
Effective May 7, 2025, valid ID is required for travel domestically or to the US Territories.
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If you have a valid passport card, you can vacation in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean as long as you travel by land or sea. The card does not cover international flights.