PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) - With more and more people feeling comfortable enough to travel outside the country again (and with other countries re-opening their borders to tourists) passport wait times are through the roof. A U.S. Department of State official says people should plan on 18 weeks from the time they apply for a new passport to the time they get their booklet or card in the mail. Before the pandemic the expected wait time was 10-12 weeks.
“Some of our service providers have been experiencing operational issues which result in delays in applications getting to our passport agencies and centers,” the official wrote in an email.
“I don't know why it should take that long, but nothing surprises me anymore,” said Yvonne Raymond, who applied for a passport on Friday, June 25.
With the additional processing time, some people like Alicia Ireland – who also just applied for her passport – may not get to take the summer trips they hoped for. “I expected expedited -- it used to take like 6 weeks, and so I thought it would be perfect and I would be ready in August," Ireland said. She now realizes she likely won’t get to go to Mexico with her visiting family, nor on a planned trip to England with her friend.
Currently, even the expedited applications (which cost an additional $60), a passport is still about 12 weeks out.
Esteban Artundaga is a newly-minted American citizen who hasn’t seen his family in eight years. He started looking into getting a passport as soon as he was naturalized. “Getting this passport done is super important because my family's in Colombia," he said after submitting his application at the Ed Pastor Post Office in central Phoenix.
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Even application appointments themselves are booked solid for 4 weeks out at acceptance facilities across the valley. “I remember I scanned through -- their software's really weird -- so I scanned through every single post office. Some didn't have anything,” Ireland said of her experience booking an appointment back in May.
The Department of State urges people to plan well in advance of their expected travel. “We recommend eligible adults renew their passports by mail when possible because it is a safe, contactless option for certain services,” an official wrote.
Raymond and her husband Ronald aren’t taking any chances with their Canadian-Alaskan cruise -- even though it’s still a year away. “Last time we were waiting to get it back and it didn't come back in time,” she said. “So this is why we're starting real early this time.”
One way to save a little bit of time is to go to UA Passports down in Tucson. They operate on a walk-in basis only. While it won’t cut down on the 18-week processing time, the drive down south could save you the 4-week wait for an appointment.