With the arrival of the travel summer season and restrictions being lifted around the world, thousands of Americans want to travel abroad. But many may not be able to if they don’t have a passport or need to renew, as processing times are taking much longer than normal.
Passport Delays In The US
Waiting times to get new or renewed passports can now take up to 18 weeks, and appointments to get emergency passports are limited.
Although the average processing time at offices is 12 weeks after the application is received, passport offices across the country have been inundated with applications and appointments causing further delays.
When pandemic restrictions first started, the State Department severely scaled back processing applications. As a result, when workers began to return to the office in June 2020, they faced a backlog of applications which is only likely to grow as more people get vaccinated and begin to plan international trips.
Plus, some related service providers have had difficulties and are operating with delays, such as the U.S. Postal Service.
“I got two clients that got theirs in four weeks, and that was last month,” said Gina Spyropoulos, who is a travel advisor with Spy Travel.
Spyropoulos said that it would take one to two days for expedited service before the pandemic, but now four to six weeks appears to be the standard wait time right.
“I don’t want that client that says I’m leaving tomorrow and my passport is expired, it’s a nightmare,” said Spyropoulos.
Officials advise that those planning to travel should start the passport application or renewal process up to six months in advance before they travel, to avoid any delays.
“Because of the fact that you know there are shortage and staffing, you know they’re going to be long lines, just be patient,” said Everett Kelley with the American Federation of Government Employees, and national president for TSA.
Some countries won’t even admit travelers with passports that expire in less than six months, so if you’re planning an international trip, check your passport’s expiration date now to make sure you have time to get a new one.
Before the pandemic, it was possible to easily get an emergency passport up to three days before traveling.
But the Department of State said they are now only offering very limited appointments for non-essential travel within 72 hours that are generally restricted to cases involving life-or-death emergencies.
Examples of urgent applications are the death of a close family member, a serious accident or some illness, and they must be proven.
How To Apply Or Renew A US Passport
If it is your first time applying for a US passport, you are under 16 or have lost your passport; you must apply in person in one of the offices, libraries, or Postal Service offices where the service is available.
For travelers who need to renew their passports or change some data, this can be done in person or by mail.
More information about passport operations in response to Covid-19 can be found here.
Traveling With An Expired Passport
If you are a US citizen and want to travel abroad, you must show a valid passport that is not expired.
However, if you are already abroad and want to return to the U.S., the federal government relaxed the rules due to the pandemic. Travelers with expired passports can re-enter the country through next December.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com