As travelers prepare for long-awaited summer vacations, they face increasingly long wait times for U.S. passport renewal services this month, Business Insider reported. The State Department’s website indicates that processing times for routine passport renewals have now extended to a staggering 13 weeks. Expedited services are currently taking between 7 and 9 weeks. These estimates do not include delivery times, which can add several weeks to the overall process.

The backlog in passport renewals can be attributed to the overwhelming demand that has accumulated over the past two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, travel demand plummeted, causing the government to terminate contracts with passport management contractors and reassign staff members originally tasked with managing passports. The bottom had essentially fallen out of the passport system due to COVID-19.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the State Department has taken measures to address the issue. The department has increased staffing levels this year and is actively recruiting more employees to meet the high demand. Despite the challenges, the majority of U.S. citizens still receive their passports within the stated timeframes, as affirmed by a State Department spokesperson earlier this year.

Travelers With Urgent Departure

For travelers with imminent departure dates less than 11 weeks from the time of application, they are eligible only for the expedited passport renewal service, which costs an additional $60. The application process can be completed in person at an acceptance facility or via mail.

In a progressive move, the State Department has been gradually introducing an online passport renewal option since August. The most recent application period for the online portal concluded earlier this month, and it has already been utilized by nearly 500,000 applicants since its launch in February.

Despite these efforts, some frustrated travelers, who submitted their applications several months in advance, are still awaiting their passports and now face the disappointing prospect of having to postpone their costly vacations.

According to Insider, a State Department spokesperson advises individuals who have applied for a passport and have not received it five days before their planned international trip to call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778. The traveler should schedule an appointment at a passport agency for immediate resolution.