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Need a New U.S. Passport? The Wait Time Is up to 4.5 Months Right Now

By Michelle Baran

Aug 31, 2021

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Passport agency services are still somewhat scaled back.

Photo by Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

Passport agency services are still somewhat scaled back.

The U.S. State Department is recommending that travelers start the process at least six months before traveling abroad.

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The current processing time for U.S. passports is up to 18 weeks (for a $110 fee), according to an July 21 update from the U.S. State Department. If you need a passport sooner than that, you can pay an additional $60 (or $170 total) for expedited service to get it within 12 weeks.

“Mail delays are impacting when we receive passport applications for processing. Our processing times begin the day we receive your application, not the day you mail it,” the State Department reported, adding the 18-week time frame includes up to 12 weeks for processing and a total of 5 to 6 weeks for mailing on both ends of the process.

The State Department advises travelers to apply at least six months before planned travel.

“Due to limited availability for urgent travel appointments, we cannot guarantee you can receive in-person service at a passport agency or center,” the State Department explained, noting that it is prioritizing travelers with life-or-death emergencies. 

Prior to the pandemic, the standard processing time for passports was 6 to 8 weeks. This spring, the estimated time frame was 10 to 12 weeks, which was still an improvement over last year when the State Department advised applicants to expect “several months” of delays. 

How to apply for a new passport

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You can renew your passport by mail, and can begin the process online, as long as you are in possession of your expired or expiring passport; your passport was issued when you were age 16 or older; it was issued within the past 15 years; and it was issued to your current name or you have documentation to support a name change.

If you want the $120 expedited service, you need to send your application using Priority Mail Express with the U.S. Postal Service.

The State Department recommends that applicants send their application via trackable mail, so that applicants can know exactly when it arrives and enters the system. Travelers can also opt for one- to two-day return delivery of their passport for an extra $17.56, to help speed things along somewhat.

Children under 16, all first-time applicants, and applicants who have lost their passport or had it stolen must apply in person. You can do so at a passport agency or at an acceptance facility. Acceptance facilities include post offices, clerks of court, libraries, and local government offices. If you want to apply at a post office, you need to make an appointment at USPS.com. Other acceptance facilities may be requiring advance appointments as well.   

Are passport agencies open right now?

Passport agencies remain open but in-person services are limited. They are not accepting walk-in services and require advance appointments.

Appointments are currently limited as well and must be scheduled over the phone by calling 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 TDD/TTY between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.  

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The online appointment booking system has been temporarility disabled: “We are making this change to address the problem of third parties booking appointments online . . . and then selling these appointments to customers with urgent travel needs—we do not charge a fee to make an appointment,” the State Department explained.

The agency said that third parties had been booking up all available appointments “within minutes of the appointments being posted online” preventing travelers who needed to make urgent requests from doing so.

How to check on your passport status and request a refund

You can find out the latest regarding your passport application status online

For those who paid a $60 fee for expedited service and did not receive expedited service, they can request a refund for the fee but not for any other passport fees or for travel expenses for a missed flight.

This story was originally published on April 3, 2020, and was updated on August 30, 2021, to include current information.

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