After months of slow processing due to State Department office closures and remote working, the U.S. State Department is ramping up passport processing. For the first time since March, in-person appointments for passport services are now available to select non-emergency travelers leaving the country within 72 hours (until now, only those traveling for life-or-death emergencies could visit a passport center in person). The State Department is still encouraging as many travelers as possible to renew their passports via mail or drop them off at an acceptance center, like a post office. We can bring your application to the acceptance center (and take your photos for you), with our passport concierge service. Here’s what you need to know about the latest passport developments at the State Department.
How Long Are Passports Currently Taking?
Passport renewals by mail or at acceptance facilities are now taking 10-12 weeks for regular processing, and expedited passports are taking 4-6 weeks.
Travelers who have travel planned in the next 72 hours can also now get a limited number of in-person appointments at passport centers.
Which Travelers are Being Prioritized First?
Since in-person appointments at passport centers remain so limited, travelers who are traveling within 72 hours for life-or-death emergencies get priority. Those who are traveling within 72 hours for non-emergency travel will be processed next. All other applicants need to apply via mail or at an acceptance facility (like the post office) and those that pay for expedited processing will get their passports first.
Are Visa Services Resuming Too?
The State Department is slowly resuming visa operations as well as passport operations. Services for U.S. citizens both in the U.S. and abroad take priority in the State Department over non-emergency visa cases, but visa operations are beginning again. Relatives of U.S. citizens and essential travelers (like diplomats) will be processed first, then students and those on temporary work visas. The State Department will continue to add more visa processing capacity as long as it is safe to do so, and hopefully return to full visa operations within the next few months.
Conclusion: Renew Your Passport Early
Although the State Department now has a few in-person appointments available for certain travelers, most people still need to renew their passport via mail or drop it off at an acceptance facility. Passports are still taking longer than they did before the pandemic—expedited processing took about 2 weeks before, and it now takes between 4 and 6. If you are considering travel in 2021, you should renew your passport now so you have it when you need it. We can help you renew your passport with our passport concierge service, or you can take it to an acceptance facility yourself.