Department of State warns consumers to renew passports 'well ahead' of travel dates

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Pandemic-related restrictions still apply in some countries, so travelers should be prepared

The U.S. Department of State has updated its International Travel Recommendations. While the agency stopped short of saying it’s overloaded and backed up, it did urge U.S. citizens who are thinking about going overseas anytime in 2022 to check their passport expiration date as soon as possible to see if the document needs to be renewed. If that's the case, then officials say to submit applications far ahead of travel dates.

The current processing time for routine passport service is 8-11 weeks, and that estimate goes down to 5-7 weeks for expedited service. That's a bit quicker than a year ago but nowhere near what it was in pre-pandemic 2019. The Department of State says its estimates do not factor in mailing times to and from its offices.

"They begin the day we receive an application at a passport agency (not the day a customer applies for a passport at an acceptance facility or drops an application off in the mail), and they end the day we issue the passport,” the agency stated.

Even if your passport doesn’t expire for a year or so, and you don’t have any international travel plans penciled in, officials recommend that you go ahead and get it renewed “well in advance” to avoid any last-minute problems or further bureaucratic backups.

Make your checklist

If your travel plans call for a passport renewal, here are the things you should take note of before you begin the process:

Adults with valid passports expiring within one year should renew by mail

Applicants who can convince the passport office that their travel is “urgent” – meaning within five days – can try to make an appointment at one of the department's 26 regional passport agencies.  

Applicants with life and death emergencies can make an appointment within three days of travel. In that situation, applicants have to call 877-487-2778 to make an appointment and will be required to provide proof of travel and proof of the life-or-death emergency at the time they apply.

Applicants may schedule an appointment to apply for a passport if they are traveling within two weeks or need a foreign visa within four weeks. However, the Department cautions travelers that the appointment can not occur more than five business days before the date of travel or ten business days if a visa is required to get into a certain country.

Keep in mind that many countries require six months’ passport validity for entry. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia all enforce this rule. There may be others that adopt the policy, so travelers should do their homework no matter where they’re headed.

Be sure to check COVID-19 restrictions

Officials are asking travelers to do their part by checking COVID-19 conditions and restrictions for their destinations in advance. While restrictions and conditions change daily, U.S. embassies and consulates around the world are trying to keep up with the latest country-specific COVID-19-related information on their websites.

Travelers should also research potential international travel destinations on the International Travel section of and review the current Travel Advisory and Country Information Page for each country. 

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