Many people in the U.S. have been waiting months to get their passports, due to a huge surge in requests for them.
Until recently, the State Department was struggling to keep up with this surge, which has happened as people have become much more comfortable over the last year or so with traveling overseas again. The reduced interest in travel during the COVID-19 pandemic – and in the year or two after its height – has certainly gone away.
This week, officials from the State Department said they have reduced processing times for passports, making it the second time since the beginning of last month that has happened.
Congress members from both sides of the political aisle have urged officials from the State Department to work on addressing the huge backlog of passport requests as well as the long waiting times that people have experienced over the last few months.
Some members of Congress have even suggested that they might need to pass legislation that would help solve the issue.
On Monday, though, the State Department announced that they had reduced processing times for passports to between seven and 10 weeks. Just last week, the processing time was as high as eight to 11 weeks.
Wait times for expedited passport requests are now only three to five weeks, instead of the five- to seven-week waiting period that it was at last week, according to department officials.
In a release the State Department issued Monday, it said that it has issued a record 24 million passport cards and books over the last fiscal year. As the department said in the release:
“As more Americans are traveling internationally again, we are directing resources to meet the unprecedented demand seen so far in 2023.”
At one point earlier in the year, there was such a huge backlog in passport requests that processing times had risen to as high as between 10 and 13 weeks. Even expedited requests were as high as between seven and nine weeks.
That can cause a significant issue for many travelers, who often don’t have the luxury of planning international trips that far in advance. That’s especially true, as it’s next to impossible to book international travel without having a valid passport in hand.
Having to wait 13 weeks to get a passport, then, might mean a person would need to know as many as four to five months in advance where they would want to travel internationally.
As a result, many lawmakers started to take notice, after being informed by their constituents and hearing people complain.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, whose district includes Miami International Airport, said a top issue that many people have expressed to him when calling his office is the long delay in getting a passport. Miami’s airport is one of the busiest in the U.S. for people who are traveling internationally.
As Rubio said at the time:
“I get it – a lot of people didn’t travel during COVID, their passports expired, now they realize it and they’re trying to get on it, but it’s been incredibly disruptive.”