U.S. passport renewals are taking longer. Applying for renewals well in advance of travel abroad may be particularly important if you also need a visa in the new passport.
Moreover, many countries require that your passport be valid for at least 3 months, or even 6 months, beyond the period of your intended stay abroad. Checking the current requirements for the country (or countries) to which you plan to travel should be among your first steps. (The United States has a similar requirement for those entering from certain countries.)
Early in 2023, routine renewals were taking 6-9 weeks, and expedited renewals were taking 3-5 weeks. Now, it is 8-11 weeks and 5-7 weeks, respectively, and that does not include mailing times.
If time is an issue:
- Rush passports may be available within 3 business days for life-or-death emergencies.
- Special appointments can be made for those with urgent travel. Urgent travel appointments, however, cannot be made unless the travel is within the next 14 days. Pay extra for faster delivery to and from the passport agency. Priority Mail Express can get the application to the agency faster than regular mail. Pay an extra fee for 1-2-day delivery back from the agency. To request this, you must include the fee with your check or money order payable to the “U.S. Department of State.” Make sure to check the latest fees with the U.S. Department of State. Do not submit a pre-paid return envelope. (If you are renewing a passport card (not a passport book), it will be sent back to you by First Class mail. It is impossible to request 1-2-day delivery for a passport card.)
- Passport expeditors or courier companies are private entities, some of which are registered at U.S. passport agencies and may submit expedited passport application on behalf of their client.
To avoid even more delays, make sure you carefully follow all the instructions on the Department of State website.
There was a pilot program for renewing passports online, but that program was closed on March 8, 2023. The Department of State expects to launch a fully online renewal program later in the year following the feedback from the pilot program.
Passport renewal delays are not new. The worst backlogs started when passport agencies were locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to 2 million renewal applications were delayed then, and it could take 4-6 months to get a passport at that time. Americans who were stranded abroad with expired passports were allowed to enter the United States with their expired passports. Things started to turn around in 2022, but processing times are creeping up again.