Struggling to get a new passport or renew your expiring one? You’re not alone.
Back in March, the U.S. Department of State shuttered in-office passport operations as the country fought the spread of coronavirus. And while passport services have since resumed, expect continued delays on applications and renewals for the time being as lawmakers push to speed things up. As of publication, more than 1 million passports are still sitting in limbo, according to the U.S. State Department.
We know you’ve got questions: Can travelers apply for or renew passports right now? How long will this backlog last? How can applicants check their passport status? We’ll cover it all here.
What’s the Status of Passport Operations?
Passport agencies and centers across the country are in the midst of a phased reopening. Just like travel as a whole, it hasn’t returned to normal just yet.
As of publication, 12 passport agencies and centers are in Phase One and another six are in Phase Two.
That has allowed passport agents to slowly chip away at the backlog of passport applications, which has decreased from 1.5 million in early July to 1 million today. To see which passport centers are open, visit the Passport Agency and Center page.
But even with some passport services resuming, there’s a long way to go before it’s back to normal:
- Applications are being processed in the order they were received. With a backlog of 1 million, that means any new applications or renewals may wait a while.
- The U.S. State Department still recommends waiting to submit any applications due to delays.
- Passport service is prioritized for customers with life-or-death emergencies or travel within the next 72 hours, and appointments are required.
- Anyone with an in-person appointment must wear a face mask.
- Expedited passport service won’t resume until Phase Three.
Can I Apply or Renew Right Now?
Technically? Yes. Realistically? Not really… unless you have a life-or-death emergency.
According to the State Department, you can still apply at an open passport acceptance facility or renew by mail. But unless if you’ve got an emergency or international travel within the next 72 hours, expect significant delays.
That means it’s probably best to wait until your local agency enters Phase 3 and is back to routine work.
Remember that unless you have international travel planned, you do not need to immediately renew your passport before it expires. You can renew a passport up to five years after it expires without needing to submit an entirely new application.
How Do I Check My Passport Status?
Already submitted your application or renewal and wondering where it stands? It’s easy to check.
Starting seven to10 days after applying, you can easily check on the status of your passport using this link. Just fill out the form and hit submit.
You can also sign up for automatic email notifications about your status using the Online Passport Status System. Finally, you can also call 1-877-487-2778 to check on your passport status.
If you paid the $60 fee for expedited service after March 19 but did not receive expedited service, you can request a refund for this fee. The Department of State is not offering refunds for any other passport fees or travel expenses.
If you don’t have an emergency or imminent travel, don’t count on getting your passport renewal or application back anytime soon.
Still, it’s easy enough to check on your passport status and see exactly where things stand. Unfortunately, there’s no telling how long this backlog may last.