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Passport renewal nightmare: Delays leave travelers with diminishing hope of going abroad in 2021

Planning a trip outside the U.S.? Is your passport ready to expire? The State Department is facing a major backlog.

Passport renewal nightmare: Delays leave travelers with diminishing hope of going abroad in 2021
[Photo: Delpixart/iStock]

If you’re planning to leave the country this year, know that time is running out to renew your passport. The State Department’s passport arm is experiencing severe delays:

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  • Expedited service, which typically takes 2 to 3 weeks, now takes up to 12 weeks (plus $60 extra).
  • Routine service can take 16 to 18 weeks.

Note that these 12- to 18-week timeframes start the day your application is received, not the day you mailed it—and the U.S. Postal Service is also experiencing significant mail delays. Fun! You can pay an extra $17.56 for one- to two-day mail delivery of the completed passport.

If you want to know how much your passport renewal will cost: Here’s a fee calculator. An adult passport card plus a book, expedited with fast mail delivery, costs $217.56.

If you’re in a hurry: You can try to snag an appointment at a local passport agency (not to be confused with a passport acceptance facility), which may require driving or flying to another city. New appointment times open at midnight online and are gone by 12:01 a.m. The hitch: These charge same-day $60 fees, and require proof of international travel within 72 hours, which is an anxiety-inducing timeline. You can also call your local representative in Congress for help getting appointments, though they are overwhelmed, too.

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If you have a life-or-death emergency: Try to get an appointment at a passport agency, and bring proof of the emergency and proof that you are traveling within 72 hours. Also call your congressional rep for help.

If you have kids: The State Department is running August and September passport fairs for first-time applicants and children in Valley Center, California; Punta Gorda, Florida; Middlefield, Ohio; Van Buren, Arkansas; and Weatherford, Texas. It’s a wonderful time for a vacation to Van Buren.

If you want to know where the hell your passport is: You can sign up for email notifications that track your passport application as it floats through this clusterjam at the passport status portal, though be aware that it takes up to six weeks for your application to even appear in the system.

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