CHICAGO -- This morning, millions of Americans hoping to travel abroad are instead stuck in limbo in a massive mounting backlog of passport applications.
"I'm trying to contact everyone that I can to see if I can get an update with this passport," said traveler Oscar Martinez. "But, as of now, there hasn't been much change."
Martinez applied to renew his 6-year-old son's passport in early February for a trip to visit family in Nicaragua. They were supposed to take off on Sunday, but even after paying a fee to expedite the process a few weeks ago, he said he received no updates, "Good Morning America" reported.
"I'm just checking the website every day," Martinez said. "And then, and then I'm just hoping that it gets approved within the next two days, and, hopefully, we can have this passport in-hand."
That passport did not arrive on time, and Martinez had to cancel their trip.
The state department said the number of passport applications has exploded in 2022. A record 22 million passports were processed, and applications are on pace to break that record again in 2023. That demand means extended wait times. New passport applications will now take 10-13 weeks get processed.
You can opt to expedite your application for $60. That drops the estimated wait time down to seven to nine weeks, but experts say it's worth it.
"If you need your passport sooner than you had anticipated, and you didn't apply for that expedited service, you can actually retroactively call the agency and see if you can get it expedited," said Going.com travel expert Katy Nastro.
If you want that summer getaway abroad and need your passport renewed, you need to get on it now.
Even with the expedited fee, you may not have your updated passport by the beginning of June.
"If you are thinking of traveling this year, I will say get it done now, pay for expedite, pay for the one- to two-day shipping, and just, and pray that it comes, like, in the next two, three months," Martinez said.
Travelers should also know that some countries require passports be valid three to six months past their scheduled trip. If you are a current passport holder, it is a good idea to apply for the early renewal six months before the actual expiration date.
In an emergency, if you've got a trip scheduled in the next two weeks, you can try to get an appointment with the passport office to get an immediate renewal, but that is not a guarantee.