Passport Processing Delays Disrupting Travel Plans

A significant increase in the time it is taking the U.S. State Department to process passports is forcing many travelers to postpone previously booked vacations.

With that in mind, AAA is urging anyone planning or hoping to travel out of the United States this year or next to initiate the passport process now or risk having those plans derailed by the delays.

“At AAA, we are seeing so many travelers, sometimes entire families, being forced to cancel or postpone their trips because passport processing has taken longer than they anticipated,” said Micki Dudas, Director, AAA, Leisure Travel. “One of the first questions we are now asking our clients is about the passport status of all travelers.”

At this time, the State Department says processing of a passport application is taking more than four months (18 weeks). Plus, ‘expedited’ service may only shorten the wait to three months.

AAA travel advisors say passport processing times are three times as long as the average wait time prior to the pandemic. The State Department website indicates the dramatic delays are the result of COVID-related issues and high demand.

“Some travelers with bookings this summer have already had to postpone until next year,” Dudas adds. “For those who are uninsured for such a change in plans, the cancellation is much more than an inconvenience. It’s a costly miscalculation.”

The passport delay issue is not just affecting those applying for new passports or renewing passports set to expire. AAA is reminding travelers that many countries now require the passport expiration date to be at least six months after the date of return travel so anyone planning travel through 2022 is strongly urged to begin the passport renewal process now.

Passport Tips for Travelers

  • Check passport status of everyone with whom you plan to travel
  • Share passport status information with your travel advisor
  • Book travel that ensures your return date is at least six months before passport expiration
  • Initiate passport processing for:
    • New passport applicants
    • Passports that have expired or are set to expire within 6 months of travel
    • Passports that require a name change
  • Visit your nearest AAA office for your passport photo, application and instructions. For more information, visit AAA Passport Services.

Similar to the surge in passport applications an increase in travel has resulted in longer TSA checkpoint lines. Recent and widely reported TSA staffing shortages across the country are resulting in long wait times at some airport TSA check points. Travelers who are enrolled in TSA Pre✓® can not only get through checkpoints faster, but will also help with the overall speed and flow for others. The shorter amount of time each person spends navigating the checkpoint, the more efficient the process can be for everyone.

“As travel numbers continue to increase due to pent-up demand and missed trips, AAA has experienced a parallel surge in the popularity of local pop-up TSA Pre✓® enrollment events,” said Tracy Noble, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Many travelers are ready and willing to travel again. Enrolling in TSA Pre✓® allows them to be processed through airport security faster and more smoothly.”

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