Anyone thinking of travelling internationally next year needs to plan ahead. Due to backlogs, applications for new or renewed U.S. passports should be filed at least six months in advance. The Department of State (DOS) reports that regular processing takes up to 18 weeks and expedited processing takes at least 12 weeks. DOS is only prioritizing life and death emergencies.
Because of these delays, some individuals are being fooled by scammers who promise passports at “lightning speed.” The Better Business Bureau advises that applicants should be wary of phony websites, unsolicited emails and calls, and unusual forms of payment.
DOS has also been affected by technological issues. It has temporarily suspended its online passport booking system for urgent/emergency passports because of bots. Third parties have been using automated programs (bots) to scoop up all available appointments and then sell them to needy travelers. During the temporary suspension, applicants will have to use a telephone to book an appointment. This suspension only affects the 26 passport agencies and centers that accept urgent requests. It does not affect bookings at passport acceptance facilities such as post offices, libraries, and certain government offices.
Members of Congress in both parties are looking for answers from DOS about how it is addressing the backlogs and long wait times.