April 23, 2024 2:25 pm





Travel Enthusiasts Face Frustrating Delays as US Passport Backlog Grows

In the midst of a post-pandemic tourism surge and a faulty new software system, Americans are encountering lengthy wait times and travel disruptions as passport facilities across the country struggle to keep up with demand. David Alwadish, cofounder of passport expediting service ItsEasy, describes it as an “ugly perfect storm,” with the entire United States seemingly deciding to renew their passports and travel simultaneously. Expediting the process comes with a high price tag, as some passport expediting firms charge up to $2,500 to get a passport ready in one day. As Americans eagerly plan their vacations after being stuck at home for two years, the backlog continues to grow, making it uncertain whether vacation plans will proceed as intended.

Months-long wait times and busy queues have become the norm as Americans rush to renew their passports and travel abroad after being confined at home for the past two years due to the pandemic. Additionally, a malfunctioning online application system has exacerbated the issue, causing further delays. With the State Department now stating that the renewal or acquisition of a new passport could take 10 to 13 weeks, Americans are left facing uncertainty and potential disruptions to their travel plans. The surge in passport requests, which has seen an average of 500,000 filings per week since the beginning of the year, has overwhelmed passport agencies across the United States. Expediting the process is an expensive solution, with some passport expediting firms charging as much as $2,500 to fast-track passport applications. As frustration mounts, travelers are left hoping for a smooth resolution to their passport woes.

  1. Nile Khow, a 20-year-old from Houston, had to fly to New York in order to renew his US passport due to the severe backlog in his hometown’s passport office. His father managed to secure an appointment at a local passport agency, and Khow made it just in time to submit his documents in New York before catching his flight to London later that evening. The urgency and scramble to obtain a valid passport highlights the growing issue faced by Americans.

  2. A new online application system that has been plagued by safety concerns has added to the delays in processing passport applications. The State Department, responsible for passport distribution, revealed that the time to renew or obtain a new passport has doubled to 10-13 weeks compared to pre-Covid times. Those seeking an expedited procedure may still have to wait 7-9 weeks and pay an additional $60 for the service.

  3. The surge in passport requests has been substantial, with an average of 500,000 filings per week in 2021, a 30% increase compared to last year. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed this surge during a congressional hearing. The desire to travel and the pent-up demand for international trips after a long period of restrictions has contributed to the overwhelming demand for passports.

  4. As passport agencies struggle to cope with the influx of applications, passport expediting services have seen an unprecedented crunch. Those willing to pay a premium for expediting services are looking at costs ranging from $940 to $2,500. However, for those unable to afford the additional fees, obtaining a passport in a timely manner becomes uncertain, potentially jeopardizing their vacation plans.

  5. The frustration and disappointment faced by travelers are evident. Linda, a 46-year-old woman who preferred not to disclose her surname, applied for passports for her family in April. While she and her husband received their passports in June, their children have not. With a vacation to the Caribbean already booked, Linda hopes to persuade officials to issue passports for her children, emphasizing the urgency of the situation.

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