What to Know
- Adult passports are good for 10 years; passports for children under the age of 16 are valid for five years.
- Under current conditions, the wait time for passport processing takes 18 weeks for routine service.
- Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.
Americans hoping to travel abroad this summer might have to delay their plans if they need new or renewed passports.
The State Department said mail delays are impacting when they receive passport applications for processing; expedited service can take up to 12 weeks, while routine service can take up to 18 weeks.
Officials previously said ripple effects from the coronavirus pandemic caused extreme disruptions to the process at domestic issuance facilities and overseas embassies and consulates.
The U.S. Postal Service said it works very closely with the U.S. Department of State Passport Agency and does not process or issue passports.
The U.S. Postal Service said, in the response to the uptick in demand in passport services, since Jan 1, 2021, it has accepted more than 3.5 million passport applications, compared to the 3.2 million accepted during the same period in FY19, before the pandemic, and that’s more than 300,000 passports accepted this year than in 2019 when doing a six-month comparison.
"We will continue to work closely with the State Department to address our valued customers questions on any issues regarding the processing of passport applications," the statement from the postal service says.
U.S. Department of State Passport Tips
- Send your passport application via trackable mail.
- Pay an extra fee for 1-2 day delivery for the return of your passport.
- You can renew your passport whenever you want; there's no need to wait until it's about to expire.
- An advisory has been posted on the State Department website.
What is the Current Wait Time for a U.S. Passport?
- Routine service can take up to 18 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. The 18-week timeframe includes up to 12 weeks for processing and up to 6 weeks for mailing times on the front and back end.
- Expedited service costs an additional $60 and can take up to 12 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. The 12-week timeframe includes up to 6 weeks for processing and up to 6 weeks for mailing times on the front and back end.
- Renew By Mail: Adults with 10-year passports can renew them by mail instead of appearing in person. Renew my U.S. passport (state.gov)
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“At AAA we are seeing so many travelers, sometimes entire families, that have been forced to cancel or postpone their trips because passport processing has taken longer than they anticipated,” Dianne Bourgoin, spokesperson for AAA Travel, said in a statement. “One of the first questions we are now asking our clients is about the passport status of all travelers.”
AAA urges anyone planning or hoping to travel out of the United States this year or next to start the passport process now or risk having those plans derailed by the delays.
“Some travelers with bookings this summer have already had to postpone until next year,” Bourgoin said. “And, for those who are uninsured for such a change in plans, the cancellation is much more than an inconvenience. It’s a costly miscalculation.”
AAA said the passport delay issue is not just affecting those applying for new passports or renewing passports set to expire. They said many countries now require the passport expiration date to be at least six months after the date of return travel so anyone planning travel through 2022 is strongly urged to begin the passport renewal process now.
Rachel Arndt, deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services, said the department is increasing COVID-19-reduced staffing throughout the United States as pandemic restrictions are eased. But she said Americans needing to apply for or renew a passport should do so at least six months ahead of when they plan to travel.
“We really encourage folks to apply for or renew their passport at least six months ahead of when you’ll need one to avoid any of those last-minute problems,” she told reporters.
The State Department and Department of Homeland Security have already taken steps to ease issues related to Americans abroad with expired passports who are seeking to return home.
The departments announced in May that U.S. citizens who are currently overseas and whose passports expired on or after Jan. 1, 2020, would be able to use their documents to reenter the United States until Dec. 31, 2021. That provision does not apply to travel between third countries unless it is a transit stop.
Passport Tips for Travelers From AAA
- Check passport status of everyone with whom you plan to travel
- Share passport status information with your travel advisor
- Book travel that ensures your return date is at least six months before passport expiration
- Initiate passport processing for:
- New passport applicants
- Passports that have expired or are set to expire within 6 months of travel
- Passports that require a name change