A massive backlog of applications is delaying passport renewals by almost five months.
If you’re planning an international trip for later this year, and your passport expires within the next 6-12 months, you need to get your renewal application in — NOW.
That’s because the US State Department has a backlog of passport applications that’s running as long as 18 weeks. That’s four and a half months.
Here’s why that matters. To qualify for a tourist visa in most countries, your passport needs to be valid for at least six months after the last day of your trip.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal? It is. Countries that require you to apply for a tourist visa will be checking your travl dates against the expiry date on your passport. If your passport doesn’t have those additional six months, no visa for you.
Vacationers eager to see the world again after almost two years of Covid travel lockdowns are already running afoul of this requirement. Some have had to reschedule, relocate or even cancel trips already planned — and paid for.
Others have gone as far as to enlist the help of their U.S. Senator in hopes of getting their passport renewals fast-tracked.
Travelers are desperately turning to passport expediters to speed up the process, but the best they can do is cut the time from 18 weeks down to 12, and even that is not guaranteed.
The State Department is trying to add staff at its 21 Passport Agency offices around the country, which would help speed things up, but that can’t happen overnight.
Short form: It’s a mess.
If you’re in this position, you need to do two things. The first is consider pushing your 2021 travel plans back to 2022. The more lead time you can give yourself to get your passport taken care of, the fewer problems you’re likely to encounter.
The second: get your passport renewal application in immediately. Like today, or tomorrow, or next week, even if you delay your travel plans to next year.
With the stream of post-pandemic travelers turning into a tidal wave, this passport processing backlog may be with us for awhile. Don’t let your travel plans get caught up in it.