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State Department seeing massive backlog in passport applications

Posted at 7:13 AM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 07:13:37-04

(WXYZ) — As COVID-19 restrictions drop and people start to feel more comfortable, the demand for international travel is picking up.

The State Department said the urge to pack up and leave town is leading to a growing backlog of passport applications.

Passports must be updated every 10 years for adults and five years for children. With a lost year of international travel, for many, it's been out of sight and out of mind. Now, the State Department is playing catch-up.

"We were supposed to get married last July but COVID closed everything down, so it just got scheduled to this year," said Patti Chapman, who got married in May. She and her fiance Derek had planned to have a destination wedding in Cancun on July 3, but there's a problem for two of her guests.

"They both went on the same day to apply for the expedited passports," she said. They need passports by June 30. One is expired, the other is lost. To make the trip, Chapman said, both guests exhausted the most convenient options and are having trouble reaching anyone at the State Department who can help. Now they are going to extreme measures to hopefully get their passports in enough time. One traveled to an office in Vermont, and another to Texas, where they've managed to make appointments the day before their trip to Mexico.

"A couple family members had to do the same thing, in March and April, and even someone I know that did it in May. They got them in like three weeks," she said.

"At this time, we are experiencing a very high volume of U.S. passport applications" said the State Department in a statement. "Regrettably, the volume of applications, coupled with staffing challenges and operational issues impacting our mail and intake service partners have resulted in delayed processing times."

Pamelia Nikitas, a travel agent and president of the Joan Anderson Travel Service in Detroit, said clients are reaching out once again for her expertise, excited to start traveling. "The first thing that we talk about is when does your passport expire?" Nikitas said. "So we focus on that first and then what travel date they want."

According to the State Department, routine service can take 18 weeks from the day an application is submitted to getting your new passport – 12 weeks processing and six weeks mailing.

Expedited service, for an additional $60, can take up to 10 weeks.