US State Department Overwhelmed by Passport Demand—Here’s Why You Need to Renew ASAP

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
July 6, 2023US News
US State Department Overwhelmed by Passport Demand—Here’s Why You Need to Renew ASAP
A U.S. Passport cover in Washington on May 25, 2021. (Eileen Putman/AP Photo)

The U.S. State Department says it is grappling with an unprecedented surge in passport demand as international travel resumes, prompting officials to urge Americans to check their passports and renew them in advance if they plan to travel abroad this year.

In fiscal year 2022, the State Department issued a record-breaking nearly 22 million passports, and projections indicate that this fiscal year, which ends in September, will surpass that record, a State Department spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

The surge in demand has resulted in approximately 400,000 passport applications per week, with volumes in January through May exceeding 500,000 applications weekly. During certain weeks, the number of pending applications has doubled compared to the same period in the previous fiscal year, the spokesperson said.

However, due to fluctuations, an overall backlog figure cannot be provided at this time, according to the spokesperson. It had been reported by CNN that Americans with summer travel plans should not expect passport processing times to return to pre-pandemic levels until the end of the year.

The processing time for new passports was extended, for the third time, by the department in March. Travelers can expect to wait 10 to 13 weeks for routine processing and seven to nine weeks for expedited processing. Before the pandemic, routine processing typically took six to eight weeks, while expedited processing took two to three weeks. Expedited processing incurs an extra $60 fee.

To address the overwhelming demand, the State Department says it has focused on bolstering its workforce. Staffing levels have been increased, and hundreds of additional personnel are currently in the hiring pipeline.

In an effort to expedite processing, the spokesperson said that staff members have been working tens of thousands of overtime hours per month since January, with authorized overtime hours ranging between 30,000 and 40,000 each month.

The State Department has also enlisted volunteers from various divisions, including retirees and new hires, to join surge teams dedicated to adjudicating passport applications before they assume other assignments.

Holiday Travel
People travel through Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on June 30, 2023. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

Unprecedented Demand

Currently, the only available method for scheduling an appointment is by calling the National Passport Information Center. However, these appointments are extremely limited, and priority is given to life-or-death emergencies. Walk-in appointments are not permitted at passport agencies.

In response to the overwhelming volume of calls received, the State Department has tripled the number of lines at the National Passport Information Center and is actively recruiting and training additional staff to handle the influx. Furthermore, the center now offers weekend service on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time.

In a bid to enhance efficiency and convenience, the State Department is gearing up for the official launch of its online passport renewal program later this year. The program, which was temporarily suspended on Feb. 7 after a year-long testing phase, is expected to benefit a significant number of passport renewal customers.

Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his optimism about the online platform, saying that it has the potential to cater to approximately “65 percent of renewal customers” once it becomes fully operational.

Last year witnessed a historic milestone for the State Department, with a record-breaking nearly 22 million passports processed, marking the highest number since the tallying of passports began in 1974.

Currently, passport renewal can only be done through in-person appointments or by mail. U.S. residents can check the status of their passport renewal or application on the designated webpage provided by the State Department.

As international travel rebounds after the pandemic, officials strongly advise Americans to verify the expiration dates of their passports before making any international travel arrangements. Many countries require passports to be valid for at least six months beyond the planned departure date. This information is available on the State Department’s Country Information webpage.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.