Passport status: Wait times are dropping, but travelers are still waiting months for it
- Nonexpedited passport wait times spiked over the summer to 18 weeks due to high travel demand, staff shortages and delays within the U.S. Postal Service.
- As of Oct. 8, wait times for new routine passport applications and renewals dropped to 14 weeks.
- Last-minute appointments remain limited and are often reserved for travelers who are in a life-or-death emergency or have urgent travel needs.
When Alyssa Mangano submitted her passport application in early May, she thought she'd get the document with plenty of time to spare before her November trip to Mexico. The vacation was nearly 26 weeks away, after all.
"I was hearing that passports were taking a while," the Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania, resident told USA TODAY. "I wanted to be proactive and get it in as soon as possible."
Nonexpedited passport wait times spiked over the summer to 18 weeks because of high travel demand, staff shortages and delays within the U.S. Postal Service. That should have given Mangano plenty of time, but she started to get concerned when the 18-week mark passed and the State Department's website had not updated her status.
►Come explore with us:Subscribe to our Travel newsletter
Mangano sent Twitter messages to the department and spent hours trying to get through their phone lines. A representative eventually was able to tell her that the passport was being processed in New Orleans, an office that closed briefly after Hurricane Ida hit town.
Around the 20-week mark, she began planning ways to get her trip refunded.
"It was very frustrating," she said. "I just wanted to know that they had it and it's not lost."
It wasn't until Wednesday – about five months after she initially submitted the paperwork – that Mangano said her passport arrived in the mail.
"I tried to be proactive," she said. "(I’ve been telling people) if anybody needs a password, even if it's not until next year, just do it now."
While Mangano waited longer than most, many U.S. travelers have been struggling to get passports turned around quickly this year. But wait times are beginning to drop. Now that the peak summer travel season is over, the average nonexpedited wait time is down to 14 weeks, according to the State Department.
Here's what else you should know if you're applying for a passport.
► Itching for an international trip?:Be prepared to wait up to 18 weeks for a passport
► 'You can't get through':Passport appointments turn scarce as offices become overwhelmed
How long does will it take to get a passport?
As of Oct. 8, wait times for new routine passport applications and renewals dropped from to 14 weeks, including mailing and processing times. So travelers submitting an application Friday can expect to get their passport by the end of January.
Travelers can cut the wait time down to 10 weeks if they spend an additional $60 for expedited service.
Wait times should come down even further before the end of the year, but the State Department did not have an estimate of when it may return to pre-pandemic levels of six to eight weeks.
Can I set up an appointment online?
Last-minute appointments remain limited and are often reserved for travelers who are in a life-or-death emergency or have urgent travel needs.
Travelers who want to schedule an appointment within 72 hours of their trip can call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
► Passport wait times:State Department removes option to book last-minute passport appointments online
► Passport appointments are scarce:There's a black market selling them online for hundreds.
How long are wait times if I want to call a passport office?
The State Department's call center has been experiencing higher-than-usual volumes, but wait times have "dropped significantly," according to an emailed statement from the State Department.
Mondays can have particularly long wait times, as well as when a contact center first opens and the days after holidays.
While the majority of calls are from travelers inquiring about their application status, a State Department official said representatives will not provide status updates because they are focused on life-or-death emergency appointments and upgrades to expedited service. Travelers who want to learn their application’s status are asked to visit https://passportstatus.state.gov.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.