Passport Applications & Renewals Are Taking Up to 18 Weeks. Here's Why.

Don't already have a passport? Forget a summer overseas.


With countries reopening across the globe and travel deemed mostly safe again, you're probably ready to burn those PTO days drinking margaritas by the beach. There's just one slight hitch that might keep you from it: Passport approvals are currently experiencing major delays—like up to 18 weeks—and these delays don't look like they'll be easing up anytime soon. 

The State Department is currently so flooded with applications it has a backlog of almost 2 million. According to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Passport Services Rachel Arndt, who spoke to reporters in a press briefing last week, that is "somewhat higher" than normal. 

"We as a department continue to recover from the effects of COVID-19 while we work to meet passport demand as US citizens increasingly seek to travel overseas again," Arndt said. "However, the pandemic's disruptions continue to have a ripple effect on all steps of the passport process, including the amount of time it currently takes us to process a passport application."

Arndt noted that for US citizens that don't currently have a passport, overseas trips this summer are likely out of the question. "[You] may need to make alternate travel plans," she said.

The standard waiting period right now is around 18 weeks, allowing for 12 weeks of process and six weeks for mailing, per the State Department. You can opt for the expedited service—which will run you an extra $60—but even that is taking up to 12 weeks.

Merely getting the appointment is tough with "extremely limited" availability, according to Arndt. In-person appointments are reportedly available for life-or-death emergency services and urgent travel needs. The US is, however, accepting expired passports from Americans that are currently abroad through the end of the year, per Travel + Leisure.

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.