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What Tourists Should Know to Avoid More U.S. Passport Delays?

Due to the prolonged wait times for U.S. passports, many Americans’ summer plans have been disrupted.nFor instance, this month, two Maryland ladies reported that they had applied for expedited passport renewals 12 weeks prior to a scheduled European cruise but had yet to get the documents, jeopardizing the trip and potentially costing them thousands of dollars.

A California mother tried sending a fruit basket to an Arizona passport office in an effort to get her daughter’s passport in time for an upcoming international trip, but she never received a response. After reaching out to a local news station, the mother finally managed to get her daughter a passport.

The State Department boosted passport processing times in March, from 10 to 13 weeks for routine applications and 7 to 9 weeks for expedited applications, plus an extra cost for expedited processing.

According to the State Department’s website, it can take up to four weeks for a passport application to reach a passport agency via U.S. mail, and another two weeks for the passport to arrive via mail after it has been printed.

An extraordinary demand for passports—a record 500,000 applications each week—is being blamed by the State Department on staffing shortages caused by the pandemic.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress in March that demand in 2023 could exceed the 22 million passports issued in 2018, and that summer activity could increase by as much as 40 percent from the previous year.

Here’s What Travelers Should Know About Passport Applications and Renewals Amid the Current Spike in Demand:

There are 4 types of standard passport applications

Routine: If your departure date is more than 13 weeks from the date you submit your application, the State Department recommends choosing this option. The 10–13 week processing time does not include the time it takes to deliver the package.

John Rose, chief risk and security officer at Altour travel agency, told Yahoo News, “You always want to allocate the maximum time the State Department is saying — never cut it to the short end.”

Expedited: The State Department recommends using this category if your departure date is within 13 weeks of your application submission date. There is an extra cost and a processing time of seven to nine weeks (not counting mailing dates).

Emergency: Traveling outside the United States within 72 hours due to a life-threatening emergency falls under this category. However, if you have official documentation, “the State Department can expedite that in just a few days,” as Rose told Yahoo News.

Urgent travel: You can use this method if your trip is within nine weeks, however in contrast to expedited applications, you will need to make an appointment at a passport agency or center.

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If you go that route, it just takes about two weeks to receive your passport. Rose said, “I’ve seen that a lot throughout my profession. But you must have all the necessary papers and documents in order.

A Third-party Passport Agency Can Come to the Rescue if You Find Yourself in a Jam

Rose suggests thinking about a passport expediting service if you need to use the emergency travel application. “They can help ensure you got everything together, the right pictures, the right application, it’s signed, your old passport, etc.,” Rose said, adding that it is best to check with a travel advisor on reliable organizations given the prevalence of potential frauds.

Find Out if You Need a Visa, Vaccinations, or a Passport to Enter the Country You’re Visiting

According to Rose, “different countries have different regulations on exactly how long you can have on your passport before expiration for entry,” with the goal of preventing passport expiration-related immigration complications.

Rose added that it’s important to check your passport to make sure there are enough blank visa/stamp pages for your trip. Vaccination and visa restrictions vary each country, so he advises passengers to make sure they meet all prerequisites before departing.

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If you need your passport quickly, you can try contacting your representative in the legislature:

However, congressional offices have recently been inundated with inquiries due to the record number of passport applications, so you may not get a response if you try to contact them less than 14 days before your departure.

“People can try, but I never recommend that avenue anymore,” Rose explains. “I recommend going through the normal channels because that has been effective with the clients that I help. I’ve never had that fail, but I shouldn’t say never.”

If you’re looking for news on the state of California in the United States, you should read The California Examiner.

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