The State Department has increased staffing and resources in an effort to meet an "unprecedented demand" for passports, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Thursday (March 23) via CNN.
Americans currently face a wait time of "about 10 to 13 weeks" for a regular passport and "about seven to nine weeks" for an expedited passport, according to Blinken, who appeared at a House Appropriations subcommittee budget hearing. The State Department is “getting 500,000 applications a week for passports,” which is equivalent to 30 to 40% more than the previous year.
“Historically, the demand’s been cyclical, the busy season is kind of March to late summer. Basically it’s full time now,” Blinken said.
“We’ve hired staff to increase the adjudicative capacity to make sure that … we’ve got the customer service, phone lines manned, we have more people in the pipeline and that’s also reflected in the budget. It’s hugely important,” he said.
Blinken said a task force has been established at headquarters in order to "marshal all of these efforts so that we're really digging in on this."
“We were authorizing overtime, we’ve opened satellite offices, we’re organizing cores at the headquarters to assist in processing, processing times,” Blinken said.
The department had previously launched a pilot online renewal platform for American citizens who already have a passport, however, has “now halted it to make sure that we can fine tune it and improve it before we roll it out in a bigger way.”
“We expect that 65% of renewal customers for passports will be able to do so online once this program is fully up and running,” Blinken said.
Blinken did, however, note that the delays on visas have recently started to improve in an effort to return to "pre-pandemic or better" levels, while acknowledging that the prioritized categories were “for students, for temporary workers, for business travelers, maritime crews.”