To Renew a Passport During the Current Backlog, You Should Apply Earlier Than You Think
18.09.2023 - 15:15
/ Antony Blinken
It’s never been more stressful to obtain or renew a passport. Officials are working through a deluge of passport applications, which began pouring in earlier this year and has caused major delays in processing times.
As Americans have had to fly across the country for last-minute appointments at passport centers or cancel their international trips altogether, many travelers are wondering if there are tricks to bypass the backlog. One strategy some have considered is to try to figure out the best time of year to renew a passport.
In typical years, some months are more optimal than others for renewing a passport. Just like some times of year are more popular for travel, there have been peak times for passport applications and times when fewer people apply, which may lead to faster processing.
But given the current situation, are there still better times for travelers to apply for a passport? Or is every month equally busy now? And if so, will passport renewals ever return to their normal rhythm of ebb and flow?
Here’s everything you need to know about finding the best time of year to renew a passport amid the current backlog.
Traditionally, passport processing times have been shortest between September through December each year. That span is usually a lull for planning international travel, after the busy summer travel has wrapped up and most Americans are traveling domestically for the holidays, resulting in fewer passport applications.
In the past, September has been dubbed Passport Awareness Month by the State Department—a time when officials encouraged Americans to check their passport expiration dates or to apply for the first time.
But this year is anything but typical when it comes to getting those little blue books in hand. In 2023, the seasonal pattern of application numbers went out the window. “Historically, the demand’s been cyclical, the busy season is kind of March to late summer,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Congressional hearing in March, according to CNN. “Basically it’s full time now,” he said.
In fact, March 2023 is when the State Department first reported the heightened surge of applications, which clocked in at approximately 500,000 applications per week.
Now that it’s mid-September, is there any sign of the onslaught of applications slowing down? Not really. The State Department is increasing its workforce to address the issues, and reports say there has been a slight drop in the number of applications (to about 400,000 per week). But the latest estimates are that the passport backlog won't be cleared until the end of the year, at the earliest. Meaning that the typically optimal season of September through December for faster passport processing cannot be relied