The State Department, which issues and renews passports for American citizens, has faced a number of challenges since the start of the pandemic. Staffing shortages caused extensive delays in the application process, including a scarcity of in-person appointments, while a surge of Americans hoping to travel led to a record number of applications and renewal requests.
“Prior to the summer, it was awful,” he said. “They have corrected it, but that was the worst I have ever seen it.”
Between October 2022 and September of last year, the State Department issued more than 24 million passports — the highest number it has ever issued during a fiscal year, according to the agency.
To address the backlog and bring down application processing times, the State Department has increased staffing by 12 percent since December 2022, with hundreds of more people still in the process of being hired, according to a spokeswoman. And between January and October of last year, the department authorized more than 30,000 hours of overtime each month.
The department also brought on volunteers from across the agency to form surge teams, which included new hires and retirees, to work on adjudicating passports, according to a department spokeswoman.
Dr. Barry G. Simonson, a 65-year-old orthopedic surgeon from Long Island in New York, planned a vacation to Mexico with his wife this month.
But in late October, with the trip approaching, Dr. Simonson looked at the passports. “Oh my god, they’re expiring,” he recalled thinking.
Aware of the backlog of passport renewals bogging down the system, Dr. Simonson was worried.
“I was very concerned that we were not going to get the passports renewed in time,” he said.
He immediately sought out itseasy.com, which warned that the process had been taking months, he said. But their passports arrived in about two to three weeks, Dr. Simonson said, and by early January, they were on a beach in Mexico.
Need a passport, or a renewal?
If you plan on traveling internationally, a good idea would be to apply for a passport as soon as possible, or if you already have one, check your expiration date and apply for a renewal, if needed. Remember, some countries require that your passport be valid for six months beyond the dates of your travels.
Mailing your application? Keep in mind that the estimated time frame for processing begins once your application is received at a passport agency or processing center. It could take an additional two weeks for your application to arrive at the passport office and then two more weeks for your passport to be mailed back to you.
A few tips that Mr. Alwadish of itseasy.com noted: You should type the information into your application rather than hand write it, double check all of your information and your payment, and make sure your passport photo is of good quality.
While the government’s application processing might be improving, Mr. Alwadish said, little mistakes and human error could still throw a wrench in your travel plans.
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Derek M. Norman
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