Given the lingering coronavirus threat and the ongoing travel restrictions, it may be a while before your next international getaway. But that doesn’t mean you should wait to apply for or renew your passport, because there may be a long line ahead of you.
As USA Today reports, the State Department cut back on passport operations from mid-March through early June as part of the efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. According to the agency’s website, they stopped processing expedited applications during that time and only issued passports for life-or-death emergencies. As a result, the application backlog ballooned to 1.8 million by the time workers returned in June.
While passport agencies have slowly reopened, the State Department isn’t at full capacity—and those applying for non-emergency passports will still experience a delay. You can check on the operation status of your local passport agency here. You may have the option to apply in person at an acceptance facility or you may renew your passport by mail.
While the State Department doesn’t currently list expected wait times on their website, some users are getting estimates via Twitter. “All applicants should continue to expect processing delays of several months as we work to get through a high volume of applications,” the agency said in a tweet on August 10.
Even if your passport doesn’t expire for several months, you should begin the renewal process now. It may save you from the stress of waiting for your passport to come through after you have already booked a trip—and you may avoid paying extra for expedited service later. After applying, you can check the status o your application online or by calling the agency at (877) 487-2778.
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Another reason to apply now: It will give you something to look forward to once the pandemic ends. While it may be hard to imagine jet-setting to exotic destinations right now, it will still be exciting to receive that shiny new passport in the mail. You may even start working on a travel rewards strategy or saving money for a future trip. With your new passport in hand, it will be easier to