The demand for passports is rapidly increasing as borders reopen and the public’s comfort level with travel increases. As a result of increased demand, a backlog of passports to process, and staffing challenges, the wait to receive a new or renewed passport is reaching unprecedented levels.
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, the U.S. Department of State shut down nearly all passport processing and didn't resume near-normal levels of passport processing until the fall of 2020. According to Charlie Cobb, CEO of Expedited Travel LLC, nearly ten million passports were not processed in 2020 that were expected to be processed.
"Right now, if you wanted to get a routine passport, it would take you approximately eighteen weeks," says Cobb. "That includes an estimate from the U.S. Department of State of about six weeks of mail time and delays related to mail. Pre-pandemic, the Department of State was processing in about four to six weeks, and their expedited [service] was anywhere from three to four weeks."
Pre-pandemic services also included an option to get passports between 24 hours and ten days – an option that is still limited due to the backlog.
HOW TO GET A PASSPORT QUICKLY
According to Cobb, an expedited passport can be turned around in approximately six weeks through a paid service with a company like Expedited Travel.
“An expedited service gives customers two benefits,” says Cobb. “One is the application can be very challenging. We remove all of the risks of having a suspended passport application because of incorrect information. Our application wizard allows you to ensure that your passport application is completed correctly.”
The other benefit involves reducing mail time. Expedited services like Expedited Travel can minimize the mailing timelines to get passports turned around within six weeks.
Government options for an expedited passport are also available but require the applicant to handle all of the paperwork and ensure its accuracy and could require a trip to a passport agency office.
WHO SHOULD BE GETTING A PASSPORT RIGHT NOW
If you’re considering international travel in the near future, travel experts recommend starting the process as soon as possible. The same goes if you have a passport with less than a year before it expires, as many countries require at least six months of validity on a passport.
"The COVID regulations and travel restrictions are changing daily, and there are exceptions to every rule,” says Cobb, “but generally six months is about what people are needing to be able to travel on the passport."
Additionally, Cobb recommends that if you’re planning travel in 2022, now is the time to get the passport started.
“Eighteen weeks is a long time,” says Cobb. “We want to make sure everyone is looking at getting a passport.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Anyone considering international travel in 2022 should consider applying for or renewing their passport at their earliest convenience based on backlogs. Depending on travel dates, expedited service may be required either through the Department of State or through a private company.
“I feel like a service like ours is badly needed,” says Cobb. “We significantly reduce the headaches and reduce delays because we submit error-free passport applications.”