Passport renewals were suffering interminable delays through much of the pandemic, but waits had really reduced recently. It shouldn’t take months for a passport, and certainly shouldn’t take months when you’re paying extra for it not to take months (‘expedited’). But the sad reality is you need the government’s permission to travel abroad, and they’re going to process you on their own timetable.
Sadly things appear to be getting worse again. There’s reportedly a backlog of 80,000 – 100,000 passport requests to be processed, and aviation watchdog JonNYC points out that the estimated time given to process when paying for expedited service has slipped to nearly two months:
U.S. passport mail-in processing times on the way up a bit.
A week ago expedited was listed as "3-5 weeks," today it's "5-7 weeks"
— 🇺🇦 JonNYC 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) February 14, 2023
The good news is that if you submitted a passport for renewal and didn’t actually pay extra (and granted, you shouldn’t have to) you can call to convert your application to expedited and pay the fee.
So what if you truly need a passport renewal right away? It’s possible to get emergency expedited service. The State Department makes appointments available for when you’re traveling within 72 hours or 14 days, though you can no longer schedule these online. People were using bots to scoop up all of the appointments and re-sell them for hundreds of dollars.
Scummy? Sure. But so is the inability of the U.S. government to fulfill its basic obligations. If passports are necessary to exercise the right to travel, then the government needs to offer a reasonable process to obtain one. Waiting months while paying extra is not acceptable. Needing a passport to travel is a relatively new idea.
If it’s any consolation, foreigners are treated worse. Those who need a visa have, in some cases, faced wait times of years to get an appointment.