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.

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!

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.

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!


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