Travel Tips

Passport Wait Times Are Longer Than Ever: Here's What You Need to Know

By
Katie Hammel
|
Marketing | Content
July 26, 2021
|
3 min read

We all know by now: anything that applied in “normal times” doesn’t right now. And that includes the processing time to get or renew your passport.

Here’s what you need to know.

Check your passport now

Passports are good for 10 years for those 16+, and 5 years for those under 16. But there’s more to check than the expiration date.

Many countries require that your passport be valid for 3-6 months beyond your travel dates, and that you have at least one blank page (it varies by country, some require more). For example, if you roll up to the airport for a trip to any of the countries in Europe’s Schengen Area and your passport isn’t valid for at least three months beyond your trip, you’re gonna get some bad news.

️In-person appointments are limited

Many passport application acceptance facilities are still closed, so in-person appointments (required for first-time passports, renewals for kids under 16, or for replacing a lost or stolen passport) are extremely limited. Additionally, appointments are being prioritized for those with emergency needs, so you may end up waiting a few weeks.

To cast the widest net, visit the USPS passport site and look for available appointments within 100 miles of your zip code. One you get an appointment, your application will be subject to the wait times below.

Staff reductions + mail delays = long wait times for applications and renewals

Whether you’re getting your first passport or renewing one, the processing time is much longer than usual. Routine service, which used to take 6-8 weeks, is now estimated at 18 weeks (yes, nearly five months), which includes 12 weeks for processing and an additional 6 weeks for mailing there and back. The term “snail mail” never felt so right.

Even expedited service, which costs an additional $60, is listed at 12 weeks—6 weeks for processing and 6 weeks for mail on either end.

Either way, the official line is that it can take up to 6 weeks from the day you submit your application until your status is actually “In Process,” and then you’re looking at 6-12 weeks for the actual processing.

Anecdotally, we’ve heard that it can take even longer. While one SCF employee paid for expedited service and got his passport back in 5 weeks, more than one member has written in to tell us it was 8-9 weeks before their status was even listed as “In Process” and they are still waiting for their passports weeks later.

To get your passport there and back sooner, you can ship it by overnight mail and then pay an extra $17.56 for 1-2 day delivery for the return of your completed passport. It may still sit around for a few weeks before the official processing time starts, but at least you’ll cut out any potential mail delays.

Don’t bother paying any non-government third-party that promises to expedite your application. The State Department says it won’t be processed any faster.

If you need to travel soon, you have some options

If you’ve already submitted your application for routine service, you can call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 and request expedited service for an additional $60.

If that’s still not soon enough, there are two dozen passport agencies around the US where you can try to get an Urgent Travel or Life-or-Death Emergency appointment.

Urgent Travel appointments previously could only be made online within 72 hours of departure, with proof of travel. However, scammers recently started booking up all the appointments, so now you'll have to call the same number listed above between 8am and 10pm EST Monday through Friday. But be aware current hold times can be hours long. Life-or-Death Emergency appointments can only be made over the phone for circumstances involving an immediate family member’s death, imminent death, or life-threatening illness/injury.

Some travelers have also reported getting help from their state senators or representatives. The websites for some state senators and congresspeople even list the phone number and email where you can reach them for passport assistance.

The bottom line: renew or apply ASAP

Even with expedited service, you could be looking at 3-4 months before you get your passport back, and for regular service, it could be as long as 6 months.

If you’ve got a trip on the horizon, apply now. If it looks like your passport won’t arrive in time, you could apply for an Urgent Travel appointment, reach out to your local representatives for help, or you may need to take advantage of the free changes airlines are still offering to push back your trip.

Last Updated 
July 26, 2021
Passport Wait Times Are Longer Than Ever: Here's What You Need to Know
Katie Hammel
Marketing | Content

Katie has been to 30 countries, including multiple repeats to her favorite places: Iceland, France, Germany, and Argentina. She prefers markets to museums, hates cucumbers, and once slept the entire duration of an 8-hour flight. Originally from Detroit, she lived in Seattle and Chicago before settling in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two strange cats.

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