If you’re planning on traveling internationally in the next ten months and need a new or renewed passport, we recommend starting the process ASAP.

The U.S. State Department has just announced that they have finally worked through the backlog of 1.8 million passport applications that had been held up from the pandemic lockdown. In March, nearly all offices were shut down to protect workers with most work being done remotely. Passport processing, however, is only able to be done in office and was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. While the State Department states the offices are back to a “regular rhythm”, experts are still estimating significant delays.

Across the country, only 11 offices have entered phase two of reopening and 21 offices have resumed operations on a limited basis. But with the coming winter and talks of a second wave getting louder, there is no guarantee another shutdown isn’t right around the corner. For now, we recommend those looking to travel in the next twelve months and need a passport renewed take action now

Before you start the process (or worse, assume expedited passports are still a thing), remember these 5 things about renewing your passport during the pandemic.

  1. Expedited processing has been indefinitely suspended. Expedited processing is expected to resume once every office is in Phase 3 or when the workload nationwide has balanced back to normal. As of right now, there are no offices planning to move to Phase 3. 
  2. All new applications and renewals will be handled in the order in which they arrive. The State Department is estimating roughly 10 weeks from receiving the application to delivery in the mail. Note that does not account for mail processing, which has also been delayed due to the pandemic.
  3. The only exception for expediting is a life-or-death emergency. Offices are only accepting application appointments for those who need passports in the next 72 hours for life-or-death emergencies. We recommend trying to book an appointment at one of the Phase 2 offices as they will have more staff onsite and more appointments slots.
    • According to the State Department, Life-or-Death Emergencies are considered: “Serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, sibling, and grandparent) that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 business days).
    • To make an appointment, you must be able to provide:
      1. A passport application with supporting documents
      2. Proof of the life-or-death emergency such as a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional. Documents must be in English or translated in English.
      3. Proof of international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket, itinerary) specific to the emergency.
  1. Passport progress is published every Thursday and you can track your application online. As the agencies and centers work through applications, progress is published every Thursday. Currently, they are working on applications received in July and August and a handful from June. If you have sent an application before June, additional information may be needed to process the application. Applications can be tracked online after 7-10 business days from when you applied or call 1-877-487-2778.
  2. Overseas customers in need of a passport must contact the U.S. embassy or consulate. Some U.S. embassies and consulates are still closed. Call ahead to make sure the office is open.