As millions of Americans get ready to pack their bags for international summer excursions, there are some important travel reminders to keep in mind for the passport renewal process, which has become painstakingly lengthy for many.
"The Department of State is committed to providing the best possible service for our passport customers," the department said in a statement on March 24. "We encourage all Americans to check their passports and renew now if they are planning international travel this year."
What to know about current passport delays
With more Americans traveling internationally in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department has seen "unprecedented demand for passports."
In 2022, a record 22 million passports were processed and the State Department said it's on pace to break that record again this fiscal year. To date, the State Department has received more than 500,000 applications per week for passports, which is up 30% to 40% above average from the same time last year.
Earlier this month, the department updated its processing times to 10-13 weeks for routine processing and 7-9 weeks for expedited processing. Those times begin when they receive the application and do not include additional mailing times.
The department has also increased its staffing levels, adding hundreds of new employees to help maximize efficiency as existing staff work overtime. The department has subsequently increased the number of lines and people available at the National Passport Information Center to help handle the influx of calls.
Travel expert and going.com spokesperson Katy Nastro told "Good Morning America" that "passport wait times have jumped not once, but twice since February of this year."
Tips for Americans applying for or renewing passports
With a massive backlog of passport applications waiting to be processed, here are some helpful tips from the State Department to ensure a bit of ease amid high demand:
- Before making any definite international travel plans this year, check the expiration date of your passport and take action sooner than later if it needs to be renewed or if the traveler needs to apply for a passport for the first time.
- Adults applying for the first time and children under 16 must appear in person to apply, accompanied by their parents. Check online to find a passport acceptance facility, which can include public libraries and post offices.
- Learn about entry and exit requirements for the country of an intended visit. See below for more detailed information and tips on this particular topic.
The State Department website has more information on applying and how to check on the status of a pending passport application.
Utlilize the traveler's checklist from the State Department online here, which includes information specific to every country along with travel advisories and other information on evolving health or safety conditions.
The department also encourages U.S. travelers to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get up-to-date safety and security information by email while overseas.
How to expedite passport processing
If you need your passport faster than you initially thought, the State Department has additional resources that can potentially help speed things along.
For an additional $60, you can upgrade an application from routine processing to expedited processing, which cuts the estimated wait time down to 7 to 9 weeks.
"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," Nastro explained.
You can also choose to add a one- to two-day delivery service of your completed passport book for an additional $19.53. One- to two-day delivery is not available for passport cards, which are only sent via First Class Mail.
Even if your passport application was done in person or by mail, you can call the National Passport Information Center directly and ask to upgrade the application service type. To do so, you'll need your application number or your last name, date of birth and a credit card to pay the $60 expedite fee.
For those who renew online, login to your MyTravelGov account and upgrade to the expedited service or pay for one- to two-day delivery service of your completed passport book. You can pay for these additional services in your account up until the time that your application is approved.
Passport validity requirements for various destinations
Some countries also require travelers' passports be valid for anywhere from three to six months beyond their scheduled trip date, and won't let you into the country otherwise.
Countries requiring at least six months validity on a passport for entry include mainland China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Turkey.
Other foreign countries may require a U.S. passport to be valid for varying amounts of time to enter. The Schengen Area, which encompasses 27 countries in Europe, for example, doesn't require U.S. travelers to have a visa but it does generally require Americans to have a passport that is valid three months beyond the intended departure date.
The State Department notes that some airlines will also prohibit you from boarding your flight if passport validity requirements aren't met.
Delta Airlines is among those that follows the six month rule for international travel.
"In general, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the period of intended stay in a foreign country," a statement on the Delta website reads. "Also, be sure to check to see if a visa is needed to visit your destination country. Please review all international destination entry requirements."
As a general rule, it can be smart to treat your passport as expired six months prior to its actual expiration date and apply for renewal early.
ABC News' Shannon Crawford contributed to this report.