Passports are in much higher demand than usual, so be sure to get yours early
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- Published on March 27, 2023
- Last Updated May 15, 2023
- In Passport
Existing passport holders in the United States will soon be able to renew their passports electronically.
Get your travel documents in order as soon as possible if you and your crew are planning an international vacation this summer.
During a budget hearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that there has been “unprecedented demand” for passports. Blinken predicted that 2023 would “break” the record 22 million passports issued in 2022 by the State Department.
Blinken claims that the State Department processes 500,000 passport applications every week, which is a “dramatic” increase of 30–40% from last year.
Passport applications take between 10 and 13 weeks to process normally, or between 7 and 9 weeks with an expedited request. This is not counting the two weeks it could take to mail something back and forth. Processing times “fluctuate throughout the year depending on demand,” and the State Department expects them to increase as the busier travel season approaches.
Blinken asserted that “demand went way down” during the pandemic, leading to a reduction in the number of employees processing passport and visa applications. After recovering from COVID, they were obligated to rebuild, adding that in order to speed up the passport application process, the State Department has hired more people, allowed overtime, and opened satellite offices.
The U.S. Travel Association reports that 52 percent of Americans intend to travel sometime within the next six months now that pandemic restrictions have been relaxed. Flight bookings and vacation spending have both increased this year compared to what they were in 2019.
According to Blinken, demand has shifted from being cyclical to being consistently high. Previously, there was a busy season beginning in March and ending in late summer.
NPR notes that soon, U.S. citizens who already possess a valid passport will be able to renew it electronically. According to Blinken, the department halted a pilot program so that they could improve and tweak it before expanding it, but “65% of passport renewal customers will be able to do so, once this program is fully up and running.”
The average wait time for visitor visa interview appointments for those looking to travel to the United States is about two months, which is significantly shorter than it was a year ago. Blinken stated that the department is giving economic-impacting visas, such as those for students, temporary workers, and business travelers, priority.
“In category after category, we’re actually getting back to and even better than pre-pandemic levels,” Blinken said, praising the fact that the department has authorized 18% more non-immigrant visas so far in the 2023 fiscal year than it did in the same period in the 2019 fiscal year.
Obtaining an immigrant visa is “a whole other issue,” Blinken emphasized.