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Need a new passport? State Department says apply at least 6 months before your departure

Amid continued unprecedented demand for international travel, the State Department is advising Americans to submit applications for passports at least six months before their scheduled departure dates.

A State Department official said in an email that current processing times are 10 to 13 weeks for routine processing. It takes seven to nine weeks for expedited processing, which costs an extra $60.  

The estimates do not include the time it takes for your application to travel through the mail; the clock starts when the State Department receives the application, the official said.

Because some countries require that passports be valid at least six months beyond the dates of people’s trips, travelers should check the State Department’s country-specific information pages to learn about entry and exit requirements and other important information for the countries they are visiting.

The agency said that it is meeting its published processing times in the ‘vast majority of cases’ and that many customers receive their passports more quickly. Even so, the State Department has continued to experience a surge in passport demand, the official said. Flyers should carefully review passport processing times on before they make any definite or nonrefundable travel plans, the official said.

The State Department said it is getting about 400,000 passport applications every week following higher-than-normal volumes in January through May that surpassed 500,000 applications a week.

Some weeks, the agency said, it gets twice as many applications marked as pending compared to the same point in fiscal year 2022. Given those fluctuations, the official said, the department is unable to provide an overall backlog number. 

The State Department hopes to return to pre-pandemic processing times by the end of calendar year, the official said.

Nearly 2 million more applications are expected to be processed this fiscal year than in the previous record period, one year before the Covid-19 pandemic, the official said.

So-called revenge travel has continued into 2023, a consequence of pent-up demand from travelers after a yearslong pandemic and the early lockdowns in 2020 that forced many to stay put. The vacation surge is producing record volumes of air travelers.

The Transportation Security Administration reported it processed 2,884,683 flyers Friday — more than the previous record of 2,882,915 on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend 2019.

Allianz Partners USA, which provides travel insurance products, has projected Americans will spend $214 billion on summer vacations this year.

The State Department official said people who have not yet applied for their passports should generally not call the agency for urgent travel appointments more than 14 days from their travel dates. People who need foreign visas for their urgent travel are an exception and should call within 28 days of their travel to seek urgent travel appointments. 

People who have to travel within 14 days should call the National Passport Information Center. While the State Department has increased staffing for urgent travel services, including on some weekends, appointments are very limited, and the official said it cannot guarantee that they will be available.

People who have pending applications and travel within five days should check appointment availability by calling 1-877-487-2778, the official said.

This post appeared first on NBC NEWS

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