The return of more normal processing times is critical as Americans travel abroad in massive numbers.
Passport processing times have returned to pre-pandemic levels, the State Department said Monday — it now takes just six to eight weeks for a passport, or two to three weeks for an expedited one.
Processing times for passports reached 18 weeks in 2021 when the State Department faced unprecedented demand. This October, processing times were reduced to eight to 11 weeks.
“With this update, we have fulfilled our commitment to return to benchmarks from March 2020,” the State Department said.
In March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the department was receiving as many as 500,000 passport applications a week, according to CBS News. Blinken said at the time that the State Department was working to hire more staffers and dedicate more resources to passport and visa processing after budget cuts during the peak of the pandemic.
The lengthy passport processing delays prompted lawmakers in Washington to propose legislation to streamline the passport application process and reduce the backlog.
Demand For Passports Remains Strong
The return of pre-pandemic processing times comes as Americans are traveling abroad in droves. Over 46 million Americans traveled abroad in the first six months of 2023, a 32% increase from the same period in 2022, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.
The State Department said it issued 24 million passports between October 2022 and September 2023, a new record.
In the past 30 years, the number of Americans holding passports has also skyrocketed. The State Department said only around 5% of Americans had passports in 1990, but as of 2023, that percentage reached 48%. There are around 160 million passports in circulation, double the number from 2007.
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