State Department overhauls passport process for flood of Americans returning to foreign travel
The State Department is beefing up its passport operation in response to soaring demand for U.S. passports.
The department is receiving around 500,000 passport applications weekly, Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently told a House Appropriations panel.
The current waiting time to receive a passport is 10 to 13 weeks, with expedited passports being available in seven to nine weeks. Spring and summer are typically the peak season for passport applications.
“Historically, the demand’s been cyclical, the busy season is kind of March to late summer. Basically, it’s full-time now,” Mr. Blinken said.
The wait time begins once the application is received at a passport office and does not include the mailing time. It can take two weeks for an application to reach a passport center, and two more weeks for a passport to be mailed back.
The current level of demand is 30% to 40% higher than at the same time last year, which officials attribute to receding worries about COVID-19 and pandemic travel restrictions.
“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,” the State Department said in a statement Friday.
There were 22 million passports issued in FY 2022, a new record, and 2023 is projected to surpass that mark.
For renewals, an online pilot was launched in 2022 but was subsequently paused on March 8. More than 500,000 people used the online service to renew their passports and a nationwide full release of the online renewal application is expected later in 2023.
Once the online renewal is fully implemented, Mr. Blinken said he expects 65% of Americans will renew their passports online.