The State Department, which issues and renews passports for US citizens, has faced a number of challenges since the start of the pandemic. Staffing shortages caused major delays in the application process, including a shortage of in-person appointments, while a surge of Americans hoping to travel generated a record number of applications and renewal applications.
David Alwadish, founder of itseasy.com, a passport and visa issuing service, called the backlog of passport applications a “perfect storm.”
“Before summer, it was horrible,” he said. “They've corrected it, but that was the worst thing I've ever seen.”
Between October 2022 and September of last year, the State Department issued more than 24 million passports, the highest number ever issued during a fiscal year, according to the agency.
To address the backlog and reduce application processing times, the State Department has increased staffing by 12 percent since December 2022, and hundreds more people are still in the hiring process, according to a spokeswoman. And between January and October of last year, the department authorized more than 30,000 overtime hours each month.
The department also hired volunteers from across the agency to form booster teams, which included new employees and retirees, to work on awarding passports, according to a department spokeswoman.
Dr. Barry G. Simonson, a 65-year-old orthopedic surgeon from New York's Long Island, planned a vacation to Mexico with his wife this month.
But in late October, as the trip approached, Dr. Simonson examined the passports. “My God, they're expiring,” he recalled thinking.
Aware of the backlog of passport renewals clogging up the system, Dr. Simonson was concerned.
“I was very worried that we wouldn't be able to renew the passports in time,” he said.
He immediately searched itseasy.com, which warned that the process had been taking months, he said. But their passports arrived in about two or three weeks, Dr. Simonson said, and in early January they were on a beach in Mexico.
Do you need a passport or renewal?
If you plan to travel internationally, a good idea would be to apply for a passport as soon as possible or, if you already have one, check its expiration date and apply for a renewal, if necessary. Remember, some countries require your passport to be valid for six months after your travel dates.
Send your application by mail? Please note that the estimated processing time begins once your application is received at a passport agency or processing center. It may take an additional two weeks for your application to arrive at the passport office and then an additional two weeks for your passport to be mailed to you.
Some tips that Mr. Alwadish from itseasy.com pointed out: you should write the information on your application instead of writing it by hand, verify all your information and your payment, and make sure your passport photo is of good quality.
While the government's processing of applications might be improving, Alwadish said, small errors and human errors could still affect your travel plans.
Follow the travels of the New York Times in instagram and Subscribe to our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter for expert tips on how to travel smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Are you dreaming of a future getaway or simply traveling from an armchair? Take a look at our 52 places to go in 2024.
News USA Today has a skilled online editor and content writer, boasting six years of experience in Media and Broadcasting. News, Finance, Sports, Travel, and Entertainment.