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If You Need a Passport by This Summer, You Could Be in Trouble: What to Do | Frommer's Shutterstock / DG-Studio

If You Need a Passport by This Summer, You Could Be in Trouble: What to Do

Ever since March, the U.S. State Department has warned that the wait time for a new passport in 2023 is 10 to 13 weeks.

It's now May, and that estimate hasn't changed. 

That means if you're planning to travel this summer and you need a new passport, you're facing a serious challenge.

Just look at the calendar. If you jump 13 weeks ahead from this week, you'll be in the middle of August. Ten weeks from this week, it'll be the end of July.

Don't assume that you can pay for an expedited passport if you have to. Even if you shell out the $60 added fee for that, the State Department still estimates that you'll have to wait 7 to 9 weeks—and 9 weeks from now is still in July. 

Naturally, some people need a passport for travel sooner than that. There may still be an option—but it's going to be a slog.

As long as your travel dates are within 14 days and you can prove it, the State Department will entertain your urgent request—although the government won't make any promises. 

If your travel dates are within two weeks, you can call 877/487-2778 to make an appointment at a passport office. Be warned: You may not like how far you'll have to travel to fulfill your appointment. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he's doing everything in his power to increase processing capacity, including approving overtime for workers, hiring more staff, and opening new offices.

The State Department is also holding "Special Passport Acceptance Fairs" for first-time applicants (schedule posted here), but, weirdly, the events posted on the official site all cluster in New Jersey and California and neglect the rest of the country, save for exactly one fair apiece in Texas and Florida. 

The tale is just as grim if you only need to renew your passport. Frustratingly, the U.S. government has "paused" the online renewal system that we used so seamlessly last autumn. The government still plans to release the full system later in 2023, but that'll come too late for summer travel.

So for renewals, your only choice (outside of hiring an expediting service for hundreds of dollars more) is currently to renew by mail.

The delays have become so bad that Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma is telling constituents not to book any international travel until after they get their passports in hand. Depressing as it is, that advice is sound.

We're sorry to have to beat this drum so much, but by the State Department's own admission, these are record-breaking waits, and we don't want summer travel plans to be ruined.

Check your passport. Tell your friends and family to check their passports. And be prepared.

Related stories:

• How to Apply for or Renew a U.S. Passport

• When to Apply for a Renewal of a U.S. Passport