Important: Processing times recently changed for both routine and expedited passport applications.

Passport Services of the U.S. Department of State - Should You Apply Directly for Your Passport?

The Passport Services of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs is the only authorized passport issuing agency for citizens of the United States who intend to travel internationally. The State Department's Passport Services also seeks to protect the integrity of the U.S. passport as proof of citizenship at home and around the world. It is important to note that a passport is actually the property of the United States government and must be surrendered if ever the government should demand it.

What is the Passport Service System?

The U.S. Department of State Passport Services consists of:

How many passports have been issued?

The number of passports issued grew annually from over 5.5 million in 1996 to over 21 million in 2018 before dropping in 20 million in 2019 followed by a huge drop in 2020 due to the pandemic. Much of the increase was due to new passport requirements based on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

passport cards begin being issued in 2008. That first year, a total of 189,560 were issued. This number also grew year over year until 2019 when 2.9 million passport cards were issued.

How has Passport Services handled the increased demand?

Due to this increase in demand, it was difficult for Passport Services to process passports within the stipulated time. For quite a while, processing of applications took as long as 12 weeks. Over the past few years, Passport Services has worked to lower the processing time to 4 to 6 weeks by increasing the number of regional agencies and individual agents. Errors on application forms or problems with documents and photos submitted can cause delays in processing time by days, weeks or, even, months.

If you are not in a rush to get your travel document, you can review the passport requirements to verify which service you need and then apply for routine processing.

Expedited Processing

The State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs generally processes applications sent by mail for expedited service within two to three weeks. This can also require more time if there are problems with the application or supporting documents. For emergency passport service in less than two weeks, applicants can make an appointment and personally visit the nearest regional passport agency.

Bob Tedeschi did and this was his conclusion:

"I spent an entire day sitting in lines in a hot, cramped passport office in Stamford, Conn. The office, an hour's drive from my home, was one of the few in the Northeast that provided last-minute service for those who call at least a few days ahead for an appointment. The lines moved at a pace that made those at the Department of Motor Vehicles look fast. In retrospect, given the amount of work I missed and the aggravation, I would've paid $150 for an online service."

Bob Tedeschi, New York Times Travel Section

COVID-19 UPDATE: Mailing delays are impacting passport processing. The Department of State's processing times begin when applications are received and not when you mail them. Standard service may take up to 14 weeks from the day the application is submitted to the day the passport arrives at your door. This timeframe includes both processing of the application and delivery time.

Expedited service may take up to 10 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. These door-to-door timeframes include both our processing times and mailing times on the front and back end. Delays may be significant so requesting 1-2-day mailing may greatly help.

Regional passport agencies are offering extremely limited in-person services if you need to travel internationally in the next 72 hours. Those with qualified life-or-death emergencies are prioritized.

Life-or-death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, sibling, and grandparent) that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 business days).

If you need to travel due to a qualified life-or-death emergency, please call the National Passport Information Center for an appointment.

Mondays through Fridays 8 AM to 5PM, call ET 1-877-487-2778 (TDD/TTY:1-888-874-7793) Outside of these hours, 202-647-4000

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