With COVID-19 restrictions starting to be lifted in many parts of the world, travelling abroad is going to begin to return to pre-COVID levels. However, if you’ve never needed a passport before or need to get your expiring passport renewed, Wright County’s Finance and Taxpayer Services Department is urging you to start the process months in advance of your trip because of a huge federal backlog of passport applications.
The U.S. State Department announced last week that the wait time to get a passport delivered to you is between 12 and 18 weeks – even if you paid extra for the expedited process. The backlog is the direct result of the pandemic, which shut down many federal facilities during the initial COVID outbreak and many federal offices have been understaffed since due to social distancing requirements in many government facilities.
The State Department estimated the current backlog of passport applications is between 1.5 million and 2 million passport requests and is currently advising those with overseas travel plans to apply for or renew their passports at least six months ahead of their vacations or business trips to foreign countries.
The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have already taken steps to assist with issues related to Americans living abroad. Americans living in foreign countries whose passports expired after Jan. 1, 2020 are able to use their documents to re-enter the U.S. until Dec. 31, 2021, but that provision does not apply to travel between third countries unless it is a transit stop. However, expired passports will not be accepted to leave the United States, so the State Department is trying to spread the word about this issue while it continues attempting to catch up with the backlog and the ongoing demand for new passports.