Why you should renew your passport for summer travel now
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
Although you may still be enjoying spring break, it might be time to plan your summer vacation — if you haven’t already done so.
There are 11 things on your summer travel checklist that you should start on now, including renewing your U.S. passport.
Unfortunately, as of mid-March, expect a minimum of eight to 11 weeks for routine passport service and five to seven for expedited service.
The U.S. Department of State advises travelers to renew a minimum of six months ahead of planned travel. It’s also important to renew since most countries require visitors’ passports to be valid for at least six months after their scheduled return date.
Current processing times
Currently, passport turnaround times are up from February. They were taking six to nine weeks for routine service and three to five weeks for expedited service due to “unprecedented demand for passport services,” per the State Department.
Quoted wait times do not include mailing times, which may contribute additional weeks to the door-to-door time it takes to receive your passport.
The agency processed nearly 22 million passport products in 2022 and is on track to exceed that number this year with half a million passports per week, according to Rachel Arndt, deputy assistant secretary for Passport Services.
The agency processed more passports in 2022 than ever prior, which they credit to pent-up demand among travelers who would’ve applied during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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This delayed demand led to a backlog of applications and longer-than-average wait times across the board for some U.S. government agency services, including passport services. The four Trusted Traveler Programs run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, Nexus and Sentri) were also affected, though to a lesser degree.
Even so, processing times continue to shorten from what they were during the height of the pandemic. Case in point: I went on a self-induced wild goose chase to attempt to retroactively renew my passport in June 2021, when routine processing times were 18 weeks.
Though I eventually received my passport seven weeks later, Arndt says travelers should be able to retroactively expedite their passport applications after the fact by calling 877-487-2778. Before you call, check your status online to see where your passport is in the process.
I shared my own experience of being unable to connect with someone at the National Passport Center via phone (which mirrors stories from others I’ve heard); she said the agency is “meeting customer expectations” on average, with “millions of phone calls per year” to “provide service in a timely manner to most of our customers.”
If applicants pay the extra $60 for expedited service and don’t receive their passports in the provided expedited timeframe, they can apply for a refund.
Other things to know
For urgent international travel, you can attempt to make a limited in-person appointment for two circumstances:
- For emergency circumstances — such as a death — requiring travel within 72 hours or three business days, you must provide proof of a qualifying incident.
- For non-emergency travel within 14 days, or if you need a foreign visa within 28 calendar days, you must provide proof of travel.
Life-or-Death Emergency Service and Urgent Travel Service appointments can only be made via phone.
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US STATE DEPARTMENT
Online passport renewal remains unavailable as the agency implements customer feedback to improve the process. Though they anticipate rolling out online passport renewal services for applicants later this year, the timing remains TBD, despite previously announcing a March implementation date.
Even so, processing times mirror those done in person or via mail.
Regardless of your travel plans, submit your passport as early as possible for processing, as times will likely increase with the summer travel uptick. This means you should renew your passport now for summer if you haven’t already done so.
The agency’s busy season typically starts in January before spring break and summer travel, so processing times will reflect that, including later this month, per Arndt.