Guymon Daily Herald

Travel surge causes ‘unpreceden­ted’ passport processing delays


AAA urges anyone planning internatio­nal travel to check their passport first. Post-COVID surges in internatio­nal travel have led to unpreceden­ted processing delays that may affect travel this summer and, possibly, through the end of the year. As a result, passportpr­ocessing times are more than double what they were before the pandemic.

“Internatio­nal travel is coming back with a roar which has caused a bottleneck in passport processing,” says Sheila Nielsen, Travel Advisor for AAA in Norman. “Before booking that dream vacation, the first question we ask our clients is their passport status. Overlookin­g an expired passport would be a costly mistake for anyone planning to travel.”

The U.S. Department of

State, which issues U.S. passports, reports routine processing times of more than three months (10 to 13 weeks, as of March 24) after receiving an applicatio­n. Mailing times may add another month (two weeks on each end). Even expedited applicatio­ns may take more than two months to process (seven to nine weeks). Internatio­nal Travel Surge Increasing delays in passport processing come as no surprise. AAA booking data shows internatio­nal travel has grown over 200% since 2022. State Department data shows a record 22 million U.S. passports were issued in 2022 (up 42% from 2021), and 2023 is on track to be another recordbrea­king year.

Since December, AAA partner RushMyPass­port reports expedited passport applicatio­ns have been on the rise. Almost 800 applicatio­ns spiked in March, which is three times more than the busiest month last year. Given the backlog at the State Department, the trend is expected to continue.


1. Don’t miss out on internatio­nal travel. U.S. citizens are required to carry a valid U.S. passport when flying internatio­nally. However, they must also carry it when driving or walking across the border to Canada or Mexico. If you do not have one, or your passport expires before year’s end, AAA advises you to submit your passport applicatio­n or renewal for summer travel ASAP.

2. The U.S. Department of State issues passports. Until COVID-19, routine passport processing was four to six weeks. Now, due to pandemicre­lated applicatio­n backlogs and a surge in travel demand, wait times are now longer, ranging from 10 to 13 weeks. In some cases, expedited services may take up to nine weeks. Mail time must also be factored in; it may take up to two weeks for the U.S. Department of State to receive a mailed applicatio­n and another two weeks for it to return.

3. Detailed instructio­ns for passport applicatio­n/renewal are available online. Anyone planning to travel this year should visit the U.S. State Department website to initiate the process as soon as possible.

4. Many countries have a six-month passport rule. Even if a passport is not due to expire until after a planned trip, it might not be usable. Several countries require that a traveler’s passport remain valid for at least six months after their trip ends. AAA advises travelers whose passports expire this year to start the renewal process now.

5. Passport processing requires travelers to temporaril­y surrender their birth certificat­e (first-time applicants) or their current/expired passport (renewals). While those documents are returned after the newly issued passports are issued, anyone who needs their birth certificat­e or uses their passport for identifica­tion unrelated to foreign travel should have a backup form of identifica­tion in the interim.

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