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The number of passport applications is higher than ever before

This year, more Americans planned trips abroad as their pandemic-era health fears eased and countries largely reopened their borders to visitors.

The State Department issued a record 22 million passports in fiscal year 2022. It is on track to break that record again in fiscal 2023, which ends Sept. 30, a spokesman said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before Congress in March that the number of passport applications was “unprecedented.” Applications typically fluctuate with the seasons, peaking from March to late summer, but “basically it’s full-time now,” Blinken said.

The State Department also had to fill positions that were reassigned or eliminated when demand for passports collapsed in 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

How to get your passport faster

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The State Department’s six-month recommendation takes into account longer processing times as well as replenishments for things like mailing at both ends of the process.

Americans should check current processing times before making specific or non-refundable travel plans, a State Department spokesperson said.

According to the State Department, a routine passport application currently takes 10 to 13 weeks to process. A traditional passport – a passport book – costs $130. First-time applicants must pay an additional initiation fee of $35.

Travelers can pay more for faster service. Expedited passport processing costs an additional $60. Expedited passports currently take seven to nine weeks.

For comparison: Before the pandemic, it took two to three weeks for expedited passports and six to eight weeks for routine passport processing, the Foreign Ministry said. It is hoped to be able to return to this rhythm by the end of the year.

Time estimates for expedited and routine passes have not changed since March 24.

Processing estimates do not include shipping times. This can take another month – up to two weeks for applications to be received by a passport agency or passport center, and another two weeks for a printed passport to be received.

Travelers can enjoy expedited delivery of a new passport book by mail in one to two days for an additional cost of $19.53.

You can also send an application faster by purchasing the United States Postal Service’s Priority Mail Express service. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the price varies depending on the region of the country.

In certain circumstances, travelers may be able to expedite the process.

The Life or Death Emergency Service is available to people with a qualifying emergency who are traveling abroad in the next three business days. The emergency travel service applies to travelers traveling abroad within 14 calendar days if they have not yet applied for a passport, or within five days for those who have already applied for a passport.

Whether you have chosen routine processing or a form of expedited assistance, you can check your application status online and sign up for email updates.

A passport that is about to expire can still incur costs

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US passports are typically valid for 10 years. They are valid for five years if issued before the age of 16.

In some cases, Americans may not be allowed to travel even if their passport has not yet expired. Some countries prohibit entry if the passport expires just a few months after the end date of a trip.

For example, the Schengen Area, which includes 27 European Union countries, requires that a U.S. passport be valid for at least 90 days beyond the date of your departure from your home country.

Many countries in the Asia Pacific and Middle East require entry permits to be valid for at least six months. Other areas such as Hong Kong and Macau require a month.

“Even if you don’t have a trip planned yet but your passport is expiring sometime in the first half of 2024, I would definitely renew it now,” Sally French, travel expert at NerdWallet, previously told CNBC.

You may also need to apply for a separate visa to enter certain countries, a process that requires additional time and planning. The State Department has information on passport and visa requirements for specific countries.

Source : www.cnbc.com

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