Anyone hoping to travel abroad should make sure to apply for their passports with plenty of time to spare.
Right now, the State Department estimates the processing time for a new passport is over two months — taking anywhere from 10 to 13 weeks — and appointments are sparse.
"I called 65 times. I got through the 65th time and it was just a little stressful," said Maria Fileto, who was desperately trying to get a passport before her trip to Cancun.
Earlier this year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress the State Department is processing half a million passport applications every week — about 30% to 40% more applications than last year.
Clint Henderson, the managing editor at the travel website The Points Guy, says this is yet another setback from the pandemic.
"Everyone had to get their passports renewed or get their passports the first time. Everyone wants to travel right now. So there's just an incredible backlog. And the agencies were not fully staffed yet, so they couldn't quite keep up with demand," said Henderson.
Henderson recommends paying the extra $60 for expedited processing so passports arrive within seven to nine weeks instead.
A state department spokesperson says the agency is authorizing up to 40,000 overtime hours every month as workers try to get through the backlog but officials don't expect to get back to pre-pandemic processing times until the end of the year.
"Part of it's going to be getting online renewals back up and running," said Henderson. "They are also promising that that will happen by the end of the year. So that could be really good news because they could process up to 5 million passport application renewals that way."
In the meantime, the State Department is holding special passport fairs for first-time applicants to submit requests without having to mail them in.
Henderson adds, if there's an emergency or you haven't received your passport within two weeks of your flight, there are ways to get a passport even sooner, but only if you can snag an appointment.
"I tried calling this morning just to test it out, and they were quoting me a hold time of at least 30 minutes, so I gave up. But apparently some people have not been able to get through it all to schedule an emergency appointment," he said.
Henderson says the best way to have a stress-free trip is to make sure you apply for a passport at least six months before your trip.
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