Home Travel Why Passport Processing Is Taking Longer (Hint: It’s Not COVID)

Why Passport Processing Is Taking Longer (Hint: It’s Not COVID)

by SharonKurheg

If you visit the U.S. State Department’s official website, travel.state.gov, it gives you an approximation of the processing times it’s currently taking to get a new or renewed passport. This is what the website says at the moment:

If the photo is too small, they say routine processing is taking 10-12 weeks, expedited processing (where you pay extra for the process to happen faster) is 4-6 weeks and expedited at the agency will only happen if you have international travel within 72 hours.

However just over a year ago, in January 2020, these were the times:

So at that point, they said 6-8 weeks for routine processing, 2-3 weeks for expedited, and 8 business days if expedited at the agency.

That’s….quite a difference. Like, upwards of 50% longer.

The Times According to USA Passport Waiting

Passport Waiting Time is a private entity that uses crowdsourced information to report the actual average length of time it takes for U.S. citizens to get their passports.

Here’s a timeline over the past couple of years.

June 2019:

January 2020:

Of course, in the summer of 2019, we were under a different administration, and many of the government’s staff were only “acting” heads. So lots of government agencies were a mess; I’ll give them that. The fact that waits were extended by upwards of a week between the summer of 2019 and the first month of 2020 shouldn’t have been surprising. But then this happened:

March 2020: COVID Closures

Starting in March 2020, passport agencies were, of course, closed for months because of COVID, which gave them a backlog of over 2,000,000 passports. It took a while (a LONG while), but the agency offices eventually all opened at full capacity, and they eventually caught up.

Here’s the most recent update from Passport Waiting Time:

March 2021:

Still pretty much the same as it was a year ago.

Why the delay now?

Welp, they can’t blame it on a clueless administration or people in charge who are only “acting” in their roles. And as long as all the processing centers are processing, they can’t blame COVID. So what’s the excuse now?

From travel.state.gov:

Use USPS’ Priority Mail Express
We are experiencing delays in receiving passport applications due to unprecedented mail volume and other COVID-19 impacts on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). If you plan to expedite your passport application due to upcoming travel plans, we recommend that you send your application using USPS’ Priority Mail Express.

Yep, let’s just blame the Post Office.


OK, so the good news is that, as per Passport Waiting Time, getting your passport back isn’t taking nearly as long as what the government says it could take. The bad news is that they never went back to the 3 weeks and change they were reporting for a new passport, back in July 2019.

Oh, and by the way – average wait time in August 2018, as per Passport Waiting Time? 18 days.

Feature Photo: pxhere

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Eric April 7, 2021 - 9:34 am

http://www.passportwaitingtime.com is totally dead wrong. Your speculation is also wrong. I sent in my passport application (routine processing) US Priority Mail 6 March 2021. They received it on 8 March. They processed it on 19 March. I received my new passport book & card on Monday 5 April. As of today 7 April, I haven’t received my old passport book back yet.

SharonKurheg April 7, 2021 - 9:50 am

I’m sorry to hear that. However one person’s experience doesn’t mean that they were wrong – just that your case was on the outer edge of the averages. Although having your new passport is, of course, more important, I hope you get your old passport book back soon.

Yvette M Velazquez July 7, 2021 - 9:09 pm

I agree those dates are dead wrong I applied June tenth the email I received said that they received my application July 1. My trip is July 17 with no updates. I paid for expedited service, I also paid for the expedited mailing. My sister applied a week before me and is in the same situation. A young lady that’s also going on the trip with us applied 4 days after my sister and already has her passport. There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to what they’re doing and this was supposed to be a birthday trip for me.

Albert Forline July 6, 2021 - 5:36 am

I am still waiting for any kind of update.. My vacation is in mid of august… They told me 12 weeks total back in april!! So i made my trip for august just in case and now it looks like im still screwed… It still says in proccess… 12 weeks will be in 2 days… 18 will be after my vaca… Its bs

Patrice April 7, 2021 - 1:17 pm

We got my son’s renewal done in 4 weeks also and this was around Thanksgiving with the holiday and Christmas gift debacle. Maybe it depends on where you are, we are in PA

Allie May 12, 2021 - 1:49 pm

We sent in an expedited first adult passport application on March 31, and are currently still waiting. Today is the 6-week mark and the website still says it is in process. It’s frustrating that there seems to be such a large variance on how soon/quickly they are issuing them.

Jr June 3, 2021 - 3:49 am

We are in 8 weeks and still no passport. We paid for expedited, childs first passport and traveling in a few days… website says application status “approved”. Total scam if we do not receive before we leave and it comes outside of the 6-8 week window for expedited can we request a refund on the additional costs to expedite? Thank you

SharonKurheg June 3, 2021 - 9:29 am

Hi! Ugh, how frustrating! No idea if you can request a refund on the expedited costs if it wasn’t expedited. Since you’re talking about the U.S. government, my gut would say no, but maybe there’s somewhere where you can ask them? Good luck!

Yvette M Velazquez July 7, 2021 - 9:04 pm

You can request a refund of your expedited fee and YES they will refund the funds.

AmyM123 July 8, 2021 - 9:55 am

Did you end up receiving it in time??

Patrick June 8, 2021 - 9:52 pm

My application was received in January. It is now June. Can’t even get through to the passport agency when calling because it just leads to a dial tone due to a high volume of calls. At this point, I’m just hoping to get my passport sometime before the turn of the 22nd century. I give it a 50-50 chance of arriving by 2101.

RH June 21, 2021 - 1:00 pm

Try contacting your Senator – they may be able to help

Jana June 12, 2021 - 1:31 pm

Same here! Child first passport, all extras paid. 8 weeks now and “in process”. We had to cancel our trip as was impossible to get a in person appointment as a second alternative. By the way we are DC area, so we tried even without an appointment to go to the national passport facility. Pretty empty building, only had a chance to chat with the security guard that confirm only with appointment to “see” someone. Recommend call again and try. My first call the lady said even having eminent travel, I do not qualify for the appointment, only life and death situations.
Frustrating, confusing… we had a baby last December, our family lives in Europe, not allowed to come and now we are not allowed to go as well.

Mz June 15, 2021 - 6:15 pm

I applied for a renewal. Mailed April 26, received in the processing center April 27. Didn’t even show up as received until June 8. I have spent 3 hrs waiting on hold 3x and no one can help me. Expedited. Traveling in 12 days. Tried to get an appointment and cannot get an appointment with any agency in the US before my trip.
This is a huge fail!

RHunt June 21, 2021 - 12:59 pm

Sent in my daughter’s passport on May 5, 2021. They received it on June 16, 2021 and still stating that it will take 10-12 weeks for processing. Her trip is at the end of July. I am only hoping that she will receive her passport in time for the paid trip! We try to call to ask questions and the phone numbers only hang up. The email provided states it does not answer questions regarding status. The person at the post office, talked my daughter out of paying for expedited services since her trip was “so far off” – HA!

Dawn July 2, 2021 - 7:40 pm

This is my same experience! The USPS told my daughter she did not need to expedite! Mailed May 13. Received June 6 & is in process. Her trip is Aug. 6th. I called to expedite and was on hold 7 hours! For them to tell me it’s only a “request” no guarantees they will. Trip is Non refundable. Hoping to get an appointment but from what I’ve read, who knows. Feeling very helpless and defeated.

Farah Modasser June 21, 2021 - 11:14 pm

Mailed in my passport and all the required forms on May 20th – I paid extra for 2 day shipping actually. The website stated my passport was “In Process” as of May 27th and will take up to 4-6 weeks (paid extra for expedited services). I’m about to start week 4 and it still says “In Process”. I’m very worried I won’t have it on time for my travel plans the first week of July. I just spent 5 hours on hold to talk to a passport agent and she told me all the passport agency appointments are booked and there’s basically no chance anyone will cancel. All I can do at this point is pray for it to come in on time. If you have travel plans coming up and your passport is expired, please do yourself a favor and go with a rush passport service – it may end up costing more money, but at least you’ll have peace of mind.

amyM123 July 8, 2021 - 9:57 am

Did you end up receiving yours in time? I’m in the same boat and wondering about my odds.

Victoria July 2, 2021 - 3:28 pm

Has anyone recently sent for an expedited passport? I paid the post office the money to have it there in 1 business day they of course did not fulfill that part but my application was received and signed for on June 29th 2021 my online status when checked now says in process and they have already cashed the money order. It also says it was received July1st 2021. So now that the application says in process I was trying to see how long before it is ready to be mailed back to me. I also paid for the 2 days mailing service back to me. Also if anyone could tell me what the stages are a passport goes through while they have it? Meaning what stage comes after in process and how many stages are there?

tasheena July 13, 2021 - 3:17 pm

I don’t Know if this will be helpful to anyone ,but I applied on the 24th of June and my application was received on the 29th of June. I paid for expedited and one to two day shipping and I just received an email stating I will get my passport on the 16th of July. I filed my passport application in New Jersey.

Citizen Science July 15, 2021 - 2:42 am

We applied in person at Post Office Passport Office in Atlanta on April 14th. They didn’t show as received until May 14th. Months later and still no passports. We were supposed to leave for our trip on July 19th. That’s now four days away and application still shows processing. We’ve tried countless times to get an appointment through the online site. There is never one available. We’ve tried calling, which always ends in the system saying all reps are busy and to call back later. Then it hangs up on you. We’ve reached out for help from from both our House Rep and Senator, but they haven’t been able to help. Unless some miracle happens and they let us know tomorrow that we have an appointment on Friday – which is highly unlike – looks like we are SOL and won’t be going on our trip. So disappointed and will lose about $1,000 in deposits, plus the cost of travel insurance (which doesn’t cover if your passport doesn’t arrive in time.) Ugh! Hoping to reschedule our trip in October, but afraid to schedule anything else until passports are in hand.

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