Good news, procrastinating travelers: Passport processing times are going down for the first time since pandemic travel restrictions were lifted.
The State Department said anyone who has applied Oct. 2 or after can now expect to wait 8 to 11 weeks for routine service and 5 to 7 weeks for expedited.
Those numbers are down from the department's estimated 10 to 13 weeks for routine and 7 to 9 weeks for expedited that occurred months ago, when a post-pandemic rush of travelers caused applications to surge by about 30% to 40% compared to the year before, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
During that rush, between Oct. 2022 and Sept. 2023, the State Department issued more than 24 million passport books and cards, marking the highest amount in the nation's history.
This was attributed to loads of eager-to-travel Americans having to get new or renewed passports at the same time post-pandemic. Meanwhile, agencies weren't fully staffed, causing a backlog and pushing processing times higher.
These issues led to a wave of congressional pushes to create new efforts to ease the process, including one piece of legislation introduced last week called the Passport Act, which aims to implement new measures to reduce delays.
Today, the State Department said it has increased staffing levels by 10%, and it plans to hire hundreds more. It also said it's investing in innovative, modern technology to further reduce processing times.
But although this reduction is welcome news, it's still important to apply well in advance of your potential travel, the department said.
These reduced wait times don't include mailing time, which can typically take two weeks.
To be safe, the department says anyone planning to travel should plan to apply at least six to nine months ahead of their passport's expiration date.
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