Starting this week, the State Department will begin processing US passport applications two weeks faster than current wait times as part of a larger effort to get back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.
The agency said Monday that it’s shortened its processing times to eight to 11 weeks for routine service and five to seven weeks for expedited service for applications received on or after Oct. 2. In late March, the department announced processing times would be extended — 10 to 13 weeks for routine service and seven to nine weeks for expedited service, respectively — because of an uptick in international travel.
“Our dedicated staff have worked countless hours to reduce passport processing times,” the State Department said in a press release. “We are continuously reassessing our operations to maximize efficiencies and are introducing innovations to our customer service and processing models.”
Officials have said that it's normal for wait times to fluctuate throughout the year, especially in anticipation of spring and summer travel seasons. The fall and winter season, which travel experts say typically sees less demand for travel in comparison to the rest of the year, provides greater breathing room to sort and review passport applications.
The move is a step to get processing times back to levels before the pandemic hit, when applications were fulfilled within six to eight weeks for routine applications and two to three weeks for accelerated service. The department noted it is working to increase staffing levels by 10 percent and modernize its technology to meet processing demand.
The State Department had been piloting an online passport renewal service, but paused it in March to make improvements to the system.
Although passport demand has fluctuated throughout the year, the department did see a surge in applications this year. It processed more than 24 million passport books and cards this fiscal year, the most recorded in US history, according to Monday’s announcement.
Certain weeks saw twice as many pending applications in comparison to similar points during the 2022 fiscal year, which saw more than 21 million passports issued, according to State Department data.
As of June 22, the agency said it issued more than 97 percent of passport applications within this year’s standard processing times, if not sooner. But travelers are still advised to apply to renew their passport at least six to nine months ahead of its expiration date. Some countries require that your passport has six months of validity before you exit the United States.