Best ways to get passports faster as renewals are taking months

Nina Pineda Image
Friday, April 21, 2023
Best ways to get passports faster amid renewal backlog
With the ongoing passport renewal backlog, 7 On Your Side has tips and advice of how to get your document to travel. Nina Pineda has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- If you're thinking of traveling outside the U.S., make sure to check your passport to see if or when it expires.

Last year the State Department issued 22 million passports -- an all-time record. That has left a big-time backlog, adding more than a month to processing.

When many people blew the dust off their passports and realized they were expired, trips had to be canceled or delayed and it cost consumers dearly.

A shortage of employees has been blamed for the backlog and now President Joe Biden is urging the State Department to alleviate the excessive wait times.

NYC school nurse Anu Mani was left broken-hearted when her passport ordered back in January did not arrive before a long-planned trip to Israel.

"They said six to nine weeks, I didn't feel the need to expedite it because I had plenty of time," Mani said.

Her stress is shared by thousands of applicants experiencing delays in getting new and renewed passports -- which could take three months or longer to arrive.

"Anyone traveling in August needs to apply now," said Union County clerk Joanne Rajoppi.

Travelers were warned about the backlog while applying for passports at the Union County Clerk's Office in Westfield.

That's where New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez urged the State Department to hire more staff, while launching a campaign to "look before you book." Menendez said his office has been inundated with emergency passport requests, including one family trying to get to Peru to see an ailing grandfather.

But legislators cannot help everyone who delays.

The school nurse had applied four months ago in a pilot program launched last August to submit applications completely online.

"We have temporarily paused the Online Passport Renewal to review the service and make improvements," a State Department spokesperson said.

After she wasn't getting answers, Mani called 7 On Your Side and reached out to Congresswoman Grace Meng.

The Queens congresswoman located her passport in Arizona and within three days the Mani family made their trip to the Holy land.

Tips to navigate the passport process

Remember that adult passports expire after 10 years, but passports for kids under 16 expire in just five years. Plus, many countries won't allow kids to travel if their passports expire within six months of travel.

Now the passport process is taking up to 10 to 13 weeks.

If you need it sooner, you have three options:

-You could pay $60 to expedite and get it within 7 to 9 weeks.

-If in in a bind and traveling within two weeks, call the National Passport Information Center and request an appointment. However, appointments are not guaranteed and may not be available in your state.

-Lastly there's an emergency exception if a relative died or is dying and you can get a passport processed in as little as three days.

Most common passport mistakes

-Incomplete applications -- make sure to take a few minutes to proofread it before submitting.

-Last minute applications. The rule of thumb is to leave at least six months for processing.

-And the number one reason passports get delayed: bad passport photos.

Click here for more information on passports and passport renewals from USPS.

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