There’s nothing quite like the thrill of jetting off to a new country, soaking in new cultures, eating exciting cuisine, and creating unforgettable memories. But hold the phone… is your passport expired?
Americans itching to break free and explore the world are finding themselves in a pickle, with passport renewal delays acting as a barrier between them and their vacation dreams. Turns out, if you need your passport renewed, there are some serious wait times.
So, if you need to renew a passport during the backlog, here’s everything to know.
Unfortunately, yes there is a passport backlog. Like a turbulent sea of paperwork, this backlog storm resulted primarily from the COVID-19 pandemic, causing staffing shortages and an avalanche of applications as travel restrictions lifted. People, in their newfound freedom, rushed to renew their passports, creating a bottleneck of requests.
As reported by CBS News, the State Department is indeed in full swing, managing an astounding 500,000 passport applications every week. They’re pacing to shatter the record they set last year when they rolled out 22 million passports.
So, what’s the ripple effect of all this? Well, the State Department is cranking up its engines and pulling in more resources to bulldoze through the backlog. They’re envisioning a more fluid and speedy process and are aiming to have all gears running smoothly by the beginning of 2024.
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If you’re planning to explore the exotic beaches of Bali or the dry deserts of Morocco, the best time to renew a passport is approximately nine months before it expires.
This gives you plenty of time to process any unforeseen delays. And since unexpected delays can be frustrating and, at times, overwhelming, having the luxury of time can be incredibly relieving.
Additionally, there’s a crucial need to pay attention to passport validity. Numerous countries have strict regulations and mandate that your passport should have at least six months’ validity remaining upon entry. Starting the renewal process early ensures you are well-prepared and can meet the entry requirements of different countries without any hassle.
Because of the recent passport renewal delays, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, which translates to the sooner the better. Taking precautionary measures now can save you from potential stress and inconvenience, allowing for a smoother and more enjoyable travel experience.
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In the normal, backlog-free world, standard passport renewals would take around 4-6 weeks. But, as we’re currently surfing a wave of delays, standard renewals are making us play the waiting game for a whopping 10-13 weeks.
That being said, this is just a ballpark figure. Delays could stretch it out even longer. So if you know your departure date is just around the corner, don’t dawdle and start your application ASAP.
If you’re in a real rush—let’s say you have plans to jet off within the next two week—then your best bet is to try an in-person appointment at a passport agency. However, brace yourself. Getting an appointment is like hunting for a needle in a haystack with the current limited availability and you still might not get it in time.
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Yes, you can expedite the entire passport renewal process, however, you’re still looking at around 7-9 weeks. Of course, speeding things up comes with a price tag, so be prepared to shell out some extra dollars.
Also, keep in mind that these are just estimates. Don’t forget to factor in the time it takes for your paperwork to make its way through the system and back to you. It’s like ordering a package, sometimes there’s a bit of a wait between clicking “order” and then holding that item in your hands, or in this case, your ticket to globe-trotting adventures.
If patience isn’t your strong suit and you find yourself twiddling your thumbs, then dive into organizing the other areas of your upcoming trip. For example, make sure that all your crucial travel items, like that handy passport holder, are all ordered and ready to go.
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When it comes to how to renew a passport, you’ve got a few options. Whether you’re a fan of good old snail mail, you’re glued to the internet, or you prefer face-to-face interactions, it’s a similar process to getting a passport. Here’s what you need to know:
Old school can be cool, and renewing by mail is currently the best option. Here’s the play-by-play:
- Go online and print out form DS-82. Fill it out and don’t forget to sign it.
- Attach a passport photo (make sure it meets the correct size specifications, i.e., 2×2″).
- Enclose the fees via a personal check or money order
- Include your old passport
- Place all the items in a sealable envelope and send it using a delivery method that allows tracking (you’ll want to be able to track where it is)!
Important Note: You can’t use this option if your passport is significantly damaged, lost, or was issued before you turned 16. In that case, you’ll need to apply in person.
Unfortunately, as of now, completing the application process online is not an option. The State Department suspended the online renewal service on March 8, 2023, and is currently working to improve the process, focusing on user experience and functionality.
That being said, if you prefer to minimize manual writing, you can use the state’s Form Filler tool to fill out the passport form online and then print it.
Sometimes, face-to-face is the way to go, especially if you need some hand-holding through the process. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Find a passport acceptance facility or agency near you,
- Bring the necessary documents (form DS-11 (not DS-82), the fee, your old passport, and a new passport photo
This method is especially handy for those with special circumstances like damaged passports or minors.
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Embarking on a journey should be exhilarating, not exasperating. Though the current passport renewal delays have travelers pacing, understanding the process of how to renew a passport correctly can really make your passport renewal a breeze.
Whether it’s by mail, or in person, double-checking that your passport is valid well before your intended departure date will save you many headaches and let the excitement of your next adventure take center stage. Really, it’s just about getting it in early and not waiting until the last minute.
So, here’s to less paperwork stress and more travel bliss! Safe travels.