Now that travel is back thriving, it has become an issue to meet the demands it brings, including passport demands.
The U.S. State Department struggles with an “unprecedented demand” for passports as Americans return to traveling post-COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday.
“We’re getting 500,000 applications a week for a passport. That’s 30 to 40% above last year, so it’s dramatic,” Blinken replied when asked about extended wait times for U.S. passport renewals and visa applications during a House Appropriations subcommittee budget hearing.
During the pandemic, the “bottom basically dropped out of the system,” Blinken added, and “demand went way down.”
COVID-19 restrictions are laxer, and travel has ramped back up CBS News report.
The U.S. Travel Association reported that 52% of all Americans plan to travel within the next six months.
Blinken said the State Department is “on track to break” last year’s record of 22 million passports issued. The plan is to boost the State Department’s staff and resources to help meet the demands.
“I have a task force established at headquarters to marshall all of these efforts so that we’re really digging in on this,” Blinken said. “We’re authorizing overtime, we’ve opened satellite offices.”
“I think it’s really important that we be as clear and transparent as possible with people who are looking for passports to know what they can expect,” he added.
Typically, it takes 10-13 weeks to receive a passport and seven-nine weeks if expedited. However, that’s for applications made on or before March 24.
Luckily, delay times for visas are receding, Blinken added, with Global wait times at two months in most places, half of what it was a year ago. The State Department is prioritizing visas that have an economic impact, particularly for students, temporary workers, business travelers and maritime crews.