It usually takes only a few weeks to process a passport application or renewal. But the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the unprecedented demand for passports, have increased those waiting times. What to do if you are not given a passport for too long, the publication said USA Today.
In 2022, the government issued nearly 22 million passports. The State Department aims to break that record this fiscal year. The government has suspended its pilot online renewal system to set it up, which some observers say has led to an even larger backlog in passport issuance. The State Department denies this.
According to the State Department, it takes 10 to 13 weeks to process a passport application. But travel and passport experts say it could take 15 to 18 weeks if mailing times are taken into account.
“Our employees are working thousands of hours of overtime,” said Rachel Arndt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services. “We have increased the number of lines and people available at the National Passport Information Center and will continue to increase capacity as well as the number of hours to cope with the influx of incoming calls.”
But you can still get a passport for this summer.
It turns out that there are many ways to get around the passport impasse. For example, use a courier service or otherwise expedite the issuance of your passport.
Use the service of a passport forwarder
Courier or forwarding services charge a fee of US$150 to US$300 to process your passport application. They submit your documents on your behalf and you can collect your passport in a few days. According to David Alvadish, CEO of ItEasy.Com Passport & Visa Services, services have access to appointments set aside by the government to serve customers with disabilities, those who can't leave work, or those with children.
But there is a second group of companies that pre-arrange appointments and then resell them to desperate travelers at a markup of $800 to $1000. Alvadish calls them "black market" courier services. And while these services are also working, they prey on the most desperate travelers.
According to Harding Bush, senior manager of security operations at Global Rescue, courier or forwarding services usually don't have better access to the passport system than the average person, "but they understand the process and will do all the work associated with regional or national passport agencies." .
Travel to a passport agency, subject to availability
You can get an expedited passport if you have booked your trip within 14 calendar days by making an appointment with one of the 26 regional passport agencies. But many passport agencies are fully booked, and the State Department says that for new applicants, it cannot guarantee that an appointment will be available.
Some people have complained, for example, that they cannot make an appointment with the San Francisco Passport Agency, California. But according to experts, passport agencies in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Honolulu have empty seats. Some travelers plan to vacation in one of these places in order to get a passport while on vacation.
For example, Andrew Williams, a travel consultant at OvationNetwork, recently needed to renew his passport in Houston. He called the Houston passport agency, but there were no seats available.
“I decided to fly to Dallas and was able to get a new passport the same day,” Williams said.
Contact a selected representative
Your congressional representative can cut through the bureaucracy and go straight to the right person in the State Department. Some elected representatives even advertise this feature on their websites, offering to send "urgent" requests on your behalf to the appropriate US Passport Agency.
“Often representatives have dedicated staff who help their constituents with similar issues,” confirmed Hans Mast, manager of Golden Rule Travel, a travel agency that specializes in travel arrangements for NGOs.
But, he said, "please don't overuse this advice and use it only when the usual options have been exhausted."
Book your trip now
What if you need a passport but don't have any immediate travel plans? Here is a workaround.
“Book a return flight ticket for the near future and then apply for an extension,” said Salila Sukumaran, founder of a travel agency specializing in wellness travel. “There is a good chance you will receive your passport before your departure date.”
This way you can get a ticket refund and travel later.
But the State Department does not recommend doing so.
“We urge people who do not have travel plans in the near future not to make emergency travel arrangements,” Arndt said. “We see a high demand for these meetings and we want them to go to people who really have urgent travel.”
Arndt urged people not to book trips they don't plan to take, noting her department is doing its best to close the backlog.
leave the country
If you are trying to renew your passport, you may have better luck outside the US.
“Last year I had to renew my son's passport and we decided to do it at the US Embassy in Doha, Qatar. Booked an appointment before arriving in the country and received a passport in less than two weeks,” said Christopher Elliot, writer, consumer advocate and journalist.
Check your passport expiration date before booking your trip
It's easy to avoid this problem. Check the validity of your passport before booking tickets. If you need a passport issued or renewed now, then you should not plan to cross the border until early August to be on the safe side.
Richard and Stephanie Park waited too long to get their passports.
After booking flights from Washington, DC to Montreal, they checked their travel documents. Richard's passport showed another year.
“But then I realized that my wife’s passport had expired,” Park said.
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With just two months to go to Canada, the Parks didn't have enough time to renew their expired passport. And now they have joined thousands of Americans trying to get their passports during record delays.
But Park's wife, Stephanie, had a plan B. She made an appointment with the Washington Passport Agency.
But it wasn't easy, and there were moments when the Parks thought they weren't going to make it. Stephanie Park showed up at the agency on the appointed day and asked if there would be any further delays. Fortunately, there were none.
“They called her back the same day and asked her to pick up her new passport,” he said.
Passport advice from Elliott
«I have been living abroad for the last two years and use my passport almost every day. I have my favorite tips, ”said Christopher and named them:.
- Get a custom 52-page passport. You can issue a passport with additional pages (52 instead of 28). Do it. Many countries require an extra blank page and you never know how many international trips you will make in the next decade.
- Apply for a spare passport. You can apply for a second US passport if you need to obtain multiple permanent visas due to frequent international travel. But the State Department doesn't check if you use it for frequent international travel, so you can use it as a backup passport.
- Keep your spare and regular passports in separate places. Never keep both passports in the same place for obvious reasons. So if you carry one in your purse, keep the other in your backpack. That way, if you lose one or it gets stolen, you will have access to the other.