As the pandemic restrictions were reversed and new hires were brought on board to help with the backlog, processing times have only slightly improved. Therefore, if you're planning international travel during the winter months, you should start the application process right away.
OFFICIAL PROCESSING TIMES
The official U.S. State Department website indicates routine processing times are currently 8 to 11 weeks, a slight improvement from early 2021. Expedited processing—which costs an extra $60—now takes 5 to 7 weeks after your application is received.The Department cautions that "it may take up to two weeks from the day you apply (or mail your application) until your application is in process."
IN-PERSON APPOINTMENTS CAN SPEED UP THE PROCESSRead the instructions and list of required documents carefully, then follow the instructions precisely to avoid delays or requests for more information. Mail your application using USPS Priority Mail Express to expedite the shipping part of the process. You can also pay an extra $18.32 for your new passport to be mailed back to you using expedited shipping.
There is a potentially faster option that entails calling to schedule an in-person appointment—if you meet specific criteria for urgent or emergency travel. The reason for your trip must be due to a family member's death or illness, or another "urgent" reason, and proof of travel may be required. However, wait times on the appointment phone line have been long. Additionally, only 26 passport offices exist in the country, meaning a road trip or a flight might be required to the nearest location. Note that there are different phone numbers with different operating hours, depending on which appointment type you need.
HELP FROM A THIRD PARTYIf you're unable to get an appointment, or if you're traveling within a couple of weeks for a non-urgent reason, you might consider using an expedited courier service. is one of many third-party companies that can help speed up the application process. While not affiliated with the U.S. government, these organizations may be helpful if you don't live near one of the 26 passport agencies.
These companies will hand-deliver your application to a passport agency and then ship your passport overnight. However, the additional fees can be steep—potentially $800 for a week turnaround time. Costs have greatly increased, due to high demand and because appointment time slots made available to these companies have been curtailed.
The U.S. Department of State warns that you will not receive your passport any faster than you would if you applied in person at a passport agency. So, if you live near an agency, always call to see if you can get an appointment before enlisting third-party assistance.