Struggling to get a new passport or renew your expiring one? You're not alone.
Surging demand for international travel has led to an unprecedented amount of passport applications and renewals – and with that, longer wait times. The U.S. State Department is warning travelers that it will now take 10 to 13 weeks for routine passport processing and 7 to 9 weeks for expedited processing, which cost an additional $60. And those timelines don't include shipping, which could take several more weeks.
U.S. officials are encouraging Americans to check their passport expiration date before making any definitive plans for international travel – and if you've already got flights booked, take action to renew your passport well in advance of your trip.
We know you've got questions: How long will this backlog last? How can applicants check their passport status? What should you do if you haven't gotten your passport back yet? We'll cover it all here.
Why Are Passports Taking So Long Right Now?
Passport agencies and centers are accepting applications for new passports and passport renewals right now, as normal. It'll just take longer to receive your passport than it has in the past.
The 10- to 13-week window for routine passport processing is up from the six- to nine-week timeline the State Department had just a few months ago. The timeline for expedited processing is seven to nine weeks, up from three to five weeks.
So, you could be facing a slightly shorter wait, depending on when you applied for a new passport or to renew your passport. The State Department lists passport processing times on its website.
Note: Processing times begin when the passport agency or center receives your application – not when you put it in the mail. And again, those timelines don't include shipping your passport back to you, which could take several more weeks.
At the moment, your only options for getting a passport or renewing your passport are by mail or in person. The State Department has been testing an online passport renewal system, but it closed to new customers on Feb. 7 so officials could process the backlog of existing applications. A spokesperson said the State Department plans to fully launch online passport renewals later in 2023.
So when will this backlog end?
Passport processing times always fluctuate throughout the year, depending on demand. But the State Department anticipates wait times will only continue to increase as we approach what's expected to be the busiest summer travel season on record as travel rebounds from the pandemic.
If you have a trip coming up soon and you don't have a passport, yours is expired, you have a few options – depending on how soon you're flying.
Tip: You may still need to renew your passport sooner even if it expires after your next international trip. That's because many countries require a passport to be valid for three to six months beyond travelers' planned date of departure. For example, most countries in Europe won't let you through the border (or even onto the plane) if your passport expires in the next three months.
For travel in the next 14 days (or if you need a foreign visa within 28 days), you can make an emergency or urgent travel appointment. You may also be eligible for an in-person appointment if you already submitted your renewal application, but have still not received your passport within five days before your departure date. In either case, you'll need to call the National Passport Information Center. Be prepared to be patient, though, as the State Department said customers are facing extended wait times while trying to contact them.
Read our full guide to getting a last-minute passport!
How Can I Check the Status of My Passport?
Check Your Passport Status Online
Already submitted your passport application or renewal and wondering where it stands? It's easy to check.
You can easily check the status of your passport using this link. Just fill out the form and hit submit. You can do this starting two weeks after applying
Get Alerts Through the Online Passport Status System
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 renewed your passport online before the latest pilot program ended, log into your MyTravelGov account to check your status. Otherwise, you should automatically receive updates via email about your application and when your passport is ready.
Paid the $60 fee for expedited service, but didn't receive expedited service? You can request a refund for that fee. The Department of State is not offering refunds for any other passport fees or travel expenses.
What Happens if My Passport Doesn't Come in Time?
If you checked your passport application status and it doesn't seem like you're going to get your new passport in time for your upcoming trip, don't cancel your trip just yet.
You may be eligible for an in-person appointment if you already submitted your renewal application, but have still not received your passport within five days before your departure date. If that's the case, you'll need to call the National Passport Information Center first at 1-877-487-2778 – don't just show up at the passport agency. If you're traveling internationally in the next six to 14 days, you can also call the National Passport Information line in order to give your passport application a nudge to get things moving faster.
Be prepared to be patient, though, as the State Department said customers are facing extended wait times while trying to contact them.
Social media may be able to help here as well as travelers have shared advice in Facebook groups like the Thrifty Traveler Premium members group about which passport agencies have appointments.
If all else fails, you can reach out to your local congressional office for help. The office of your local U.S. senator or representative can submit an inquiry into the status of your application, which often helps expedite the renewal process.
You can quickly find who represents you in D.C. via Congress.gov and easily get some preliminary contact information.
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, with international travel demand surging, it may be a while before passport applications and renewals return to their normal pace.