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State Department Warns It’s Going to Take a LONG Time to Get Your Passport. Is There Anything You Can Do?

The current wait time is 10-13 weeks.

The pandemic upended the travel industry. The world is still watching the ripple effects of labor shortages, backlogs, and chaos due to increased demands. Global Entry is a mess right now, and this week, the State Department also issued an update on passport processing. Unfortunately, it’s more bad news.  

According to the department, the processing times for passport applications are currently 10 to 13 weeks for routine applications and seven to nine weeks for expedited applications. This doesn’t include the mailing times, which may be up to four weeks–two from when you mail it, and another two from when they send it back. 

There has been a surge in applications with the travel season approaching soon–as recently as March 7, 2023, processing times were taking eight to 11 weeks. The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the State Department is receiving 500,000 applications every week, 30-40% more than last year, and it has increased staff and opened satellite offices to manage this flurry.

In 2022, the U.S. State Department issued 21,995,760 passports—the most ever. And 2023 may be another record-breaking year. The statement said, “We are on track to set the record for the highest demand year ever, far surpassing volumes seen during previous surges in demand in 2007 and 2017. During some weeks this winter, the Department received more than 500,000 applications, the highest number ever for this time of year, exceeding our official projections.”

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What You Can Do

Not a ton. But first things first: Apply as soon as possible. Don’t wait. Last-minute applicants will face hassles, especially due to summer travels, so don’t wait to apply or renew. American citizens can’t renew their passports online anymore—the limited release is paused and may not be available until later this year.

Related: I Was a Beta Tester for the New U.S. Online Passport Application System. It Was a Terrible Experience

Check special passport fairs being held across the country if you are a first-time applicant. If you need your passport quickly, you can pay $60 for expedited service and $19.53 for a 1-2 day delivery. The State Department offers a resource for those who need to travel urgently: If you have a life-or-death emergency requiring travel within 72 hours or an urgent travel within nine weeks, you can call to make an appointment. You will find more information here.

How to Travel Without a Passport

You don’t require a passport to travel within the United States. You can board a domestic flight with a driver’s license, passport card, defense ID, or any of these documents. So, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands are also passport-free for American travelers as long as they have valid identification. From May 7, 2025, all travelers will need a REAL ID like an Enhanced Driving Licence.

You can also enter Mexico by land or sea if you have an Enhanced Driver’s Licence or U.S. Passport Card. Canada accepts passport cards, NEXUS, and FAST, and you can use the same identification to enter the U.S. via land, sea, or air. But to fly anywhere else internationally, you need a valid passport. 

Related: The State Department Has a Major Travel Warning for Spring Break

There is one other option if your expired passport is thwarting your summer travel plans. As per the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, U.S. citizens can take a closed-loop cruise without a passport. A closed-loop cruise begins and ends at the same port in the U.S. and stays within the Western Hemisphere. So, cruising to Alaska, Bermuda, and the Bahamas is possible if you have proof of citizenship. Before you book, confirm that the destination doesn’t require you to carry your passport to disembark at ports—you may not be able to board.

Related: 11 Warm Places to Travel Without a Passport