US Passport Delays May Continue To Stymie Carribean Tourism–But Online Portal for Renewals May Help.

Photo credit: Peter Griffin. Delays in obtaining or renewing passports in the United States leads to canceled vacations and may affect tourism locations.
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By Editor-July 8th, 2023.

Across the United States many hard-earned vacations are having to be canceled because passengers cannot obtain or renew passports in timely fashion due to what the State Department described as an “unprecedented demand for passports.” However, post pandemic, this demand for passports can hardly be a surprise to passport officials.

In March, the department said standard processing time for a new or renewed passport could take up to 13 weeks. But many passport seekers are finding that the wait is well beyond that — leaving trips abroad compromised and travelers scrambling for refunds on airfare and lodging.

Passport demand has been “unprecedented,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress in March.

The State Department says they receive about 400,000 applications each week.

The stubborn passport delays are, in part, a consequence of the pandemic. As the health crisis has waned, interest in international travel has picked up in turn — causing a surge in applications for new or renewed passports, many of which had expired during the pandemic, at which time it was very difficult to obtain a new passport.

Last year, the U.S. issued 22 million passports, a historic high — and is expected to once again surpass the record this year.

A spokesperson for the State Department said they are hiring more staff and authorizing overtime in order to keep up with the demand.

The department also plans to launch a website for online passport renewal applications by the end of the year. The online option is expected to help process about a quarter of applications. As things stand,  applicants generally must send in their current passports when they need a renewed passport so they are also unable to travel overseas during the three-month period of “processing” a renewal.

 Many would-be tourists complain of long wait times and thousands of dollars lost when passports don’t arrive on time.

Keisha Peterson from Maryland spent a year saving up over $3,000 for a vacation in the Bahamas — her 9-year-old daughter’s first trip abroad. They planned to leave on Sunday.

But instead of packing, Peterson said she is finding out whether she can get a voucher or credit for their flights, because her daughter’s passport did not come in time.

“I’m feeling disappointed, devastated, frustrated and just emotionally drained,” she told NPR. “It should not be this hard to get a passport.”

Peterson filed her daughter’s application in March. Two weeks ago, she learned that she was missing some paperwork. After submitting the proper documents, Peterson learned on Friday that the department made a mistake about which documents they needed.

The only silver lining, Peterson said, was that her daughter did not know about the trip or that it was canceled, because it was meant to be a surprise.

“What she doesn’t know can’t hurt her,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hendricks rescheduled her flight to a Mediterranean country, where she and her husband planned to meet, for mid-July. Up until recently, Hendricks, a former member of the U.S. Navy, did not need a passport because service members do not need one when they are sent abroad.

The Web site gives the following information:

Our processing times only include the time your application is at one of our passport agencies or centers. Mailing times are not included in processing times. The total time to get your passport includes both processing and mailing times. 

It may take up to 2 weeks for applications to arrive by mail at a passport agency or center, and up to 2 weeks for you to receive a completed passport in the mail after we print it.

Consider the total time it will take to receive your passport when you are booking travel.

Routine10 to 13 weeks
Expedited7 to 9 weeks
Expedited at AgencyMust have international travel within 14 calendar days


It is not made clear exactly why the “processing time” is so long in the US. In several South American countries and Caribbean islands passports can be issued in person the same day and weeks of “processing” is not required to issue a passport.

Sources: National Public Radio, US Passport Office.
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