The U.S. Department of State Passport Services recently increased the waiting period for passport processing causing chaos e frustration for would-be travelers. Routine passport processing which, for many years, took only six weeks to complete now requires up to 10 weeks or more. Expedited services can take up to four weeks instead of the usual two.
The increase in processing times is a response to a 44% increase in passport applications. Two factors have contributed to the greater demand. One, the months of February through April are usually high-volume months due to the fact that travelers are preparing for both Spring break and summer vacations.
Two, a new law that went into effect January 23 of this year requires all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document, or an Alien Registration Card, Form I-551, if applicable.
Many travelers who were unaware of the increased demand applied for a passport thinking they would receive it within a few weeks. They then found themselves desperately seeking a way to get their passport in time for their scheduled trip. Following are just a few of the numerous messages U.S. Passport Service Guide has recently received.
The National Passport Information Service has representatives available from 7:00 am to 12 midnight. However, you have about as much a chance to get through as you do winning the lottery. Following are just a few of the numerous requests from desperate individuals seeking assistance to get their passports on time.
“Are you able to expedite a passport application that is already being processed? Filed for passports for my wife and me first week in January for March 18 trip. Now told they will not be ready until March 27, well after our departure date. Please advise.”
“I need to know the status of three passports for my children. We are leaving the country in two weeks and I thought we would have their new passports by now. Please advise.”
“My application has been processed, but will arrive too late for my trip. Can I expedite the process before 3/16? I cannot get through [to National Passport Information Service] by phone or e-mail to save my life.”
“My family and I applied for passports in January and when we went online to find out the status they said they would be sent on or about March 28th. We our leaving on our vacation on March 29th. We need our passports to travel. We are leaving in 2 weeks!!! Please direct me to the right person to speak to. I’ve tried calling the National service but can’t get through because of the large volume of calls.”
Travelers who are able to get through to the National Passport Information Service and set up an appointment as a regional passport agency found themselves facing extremely long and chaotic lines.
An efficient, although costly, alternative is to contract a private passport and visa expediter. Expediting services have a special relationship with the U.S. State Department that allow them to hand deliver applications and pick up prepared passports for their clients in 10 days or less. Fees start at about $59 and can reach $169 for same day service. This does not include fees charged by the U.S. government nor overnight delivery.
While the cost of passport expediting through a private service may be expensive, it can mean the difference between actually receiving your passport before your departure date and having to cancel your trip.
Visit U.S. Passport Service Guide for requirements, instructions and tips for expediting American passports as quickly as the same day.