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U.S. Passport Wait Times Are Back Under Control. How Long Will It Take Now?

A year ago, as the U.S. government continued to climb out of the bureaucratic hole that Covid-19 and staffing woes had dug, the wait time for a new passport was as long as 13 weeks

During some periods in late 2022 and early 2023, the State Department received some 500,000 applications a week, the highest rate ever seen. That meant that in 2023, a passport that was applied for in late March might not be received until early July, a delay that cost some people the ability to travel abroad for summer vacation.

But in 2024 the backlog is gone. By authorizing hours of overtime and filling empty positions to fulfill the project of catching up, the State Department has brought wait times back to pre-pandemic levels.

The government processed more than 24 million passport books and passport cards in fiscal year 2023. That was a new record.

Thanks to that push, official wait times for a new passport have stood at 6 to 8 weeks since December 2023, although most applications will take less time. (The government estimates that applications and completed passports may take as long as 2 weeks to transit to and from processing centers.)

If you pay an extra $60 on top of standard fees, you can knock the total wait time to 2–3 weeks with expedited handling

The government has not been as successful in finalizing its online portal for passport renewal. Using the government’s pilot digital passport renewal system in late 2022, my new passport was mailed back to me just 22 days after I applied. 

Although the State Department originally promised to make the online renewal system fully available by late 2023, officials later took the system offline for tweaks, delaying its debut for undisclosed reasons.

As of late March 2024, no final launch date for the digital renewal process has been announced, but government spokespeople are still affirming a commitment to launching the system as soon as possible. 

On March 23, President Joe Biden signed a long-awaited Congressional package of appropriations that supplies a further $50 million toward dealing with backlogs of passport and visa applications. 

If you’re planning international travel for the summer of 2024, now would be an ideal time to get your passport application or renewal plans rolling. You might need to renew your passport even if its expiration date seems far in the future—some countries insist that your passport have at least 6 months of validity remaining after the dates of your visit.

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