Why Now Is The Perfect Time To Renew Your Passport

Good news, international travel lovers. While bureaucracy can be notoriously slow, the processing time for passport applications has actually dropped by a week. The U.S. Department of State has made a few tweaks to speed up the process, bringing the timeframe from 8 to 11 weeks to 7 to 10 weeks for regular applications. There's a nice update for all the last-minute vacation planners out there, too. Expedited applications can be processed in three to five weeks for an extra $60, whereas previously, it might have taken five to seven weeks. 

The internal change has arrived as a result of a record number of travelers in the last year or so, supplying the passport office with an unprecedented number of applications, according to a recent statement on the Department of State's website. In the post-pandemic "revenge travel" era, the department issued more than 24 million passports between October 2022 and September 2023 — the most ever in U.S. history.

Why now is the perfect time to apply

If your passport is expired, set to expire within six months, or you need a new one altogether, it's best to strike while the iron is hot and apply now, as the Department of State is allocating more resources than ever to handle the recent surge in applications. For starters, the office says it's aggressively recruiting staff members for its nationwide passport centers. Currently, staff members are working overtime to process millions of applications for passport books and passport cards, to the tune of tens of thousands of extra hours each month.

Additionally, back in March, the Department of State announced that it opened a satellite office to help meet the demand in addition to its regular brick-and-mortar passport centers. Last winter, the office processed 500,000 passport applications, the highest number ever recorded during that time of year. Overall, travel trends have far and above exceeded previous travel surges, like those seen in 2007 and 2017.

Planning and tracking passport status

While it's great news that processing times have dropped, keep in mind that these figures don't include mailing times. Depending on your chosen delivery method, an application can take up to two weeks to arrive at the passport center. On the tail end, it can take another two weeks for your swanky new passport to arrive in the mail, ready for use. When you're planning your trip dates, plan accordingly. Two weeks to send it in, 8 to 11 weeks to process it, and another 2 weeks to get it back, which adds up to 3 to 4 months for a regular application, provided it's rejection-proof.

The processing time at the passport office begins the day your application is received and scanned into the system. Once it's logged, you'll be able to track the status on the Department of State website. You can also sign up for email notifications for extra peace of mind. After you apply, you may not see a whole lot on the website for the first two weeks, as your application is in an intake facility where your payment is being processed. But once it's sent to a passport center, you'll see some activity. Generally, it's best to apply for your passport as soon as possible, as processing times can fluctuate depending on demand. The sooner you apply, the sooner you can add some of the world's best destinations to your bucket list.