Passport Processing Times Speed Up: The Kiplinger Letter

The State Department credits shrinking passport processing times to an increase in staff and to new technology.

To help you understand recent efforts by the State Department to lower expected wait times to obtain or renew a passport and how airports are becoming more customer-focused, as well as what we expect to happen in the future, our highly experienced Kiplinger Letter team will keep you abreast of the latest developments and forecasts (Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe). You'll get all the latest news first by subscribing, but we will publish many (but not all) of the forecasts a few days afterward online. Here’s the latest…

Passport processing
It’s getting easier to obtain or renew your passport, as delays ease. Processing times are now eight to eleven weeks for routine service and five to seven weeks for expedited (which costs an additional $60), a significant improvement. The State Department credits improved staffing levels (up 10 percent this year), as well as technological advancement, with bringing down processing times. With more hires expected in the near future, they should continue to decline.

But passport offices are still lagging behind their prepandemic performance when processing times typically ranged from six to eight weeks for routine service. The State Department issued more than 24 million passport books and cards from October 2022 through September 2023, the highest 12-month count in U.S. history. The upswing is the result of a post-pandemic surge in international travel, which prompted many Americans whose passports had expired to seek renewal. 

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Non-traveler access to airport terminals expands
More U.S. airports are permitting non-travelers to access terminals, where they can frequent shops and restaurants and indulge in the pre-9/11 ritual of bidding farewell to friends and family at the gate, right before they board their plane.

A half-dozen terminals now have “day pass” programs, with the list, so far, including Orlando, Seattle-Tacoma, New Orleans and Orange County, California. Most require a short application to be filled out online a day in advance, at least, though some offer same-day registration. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quickly reviews and approves these applications on a first-come, first-served basis.

This forecast first appeared in The Kiplinger Letter, which has been running since 1923 and is a collection of concise weekly forecasts on business and economic trends, as well as what to expect from Washington, to help you understand what’s coming up to make the most of your investments and your money. Subscribe to The Kiplinger Letter.

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Sean Lengell
Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter

Sean Lengell covers Congress and government policy for The Kiplinger Letter. Before joining Kiplinger in January 2017 he served as a congressional reporter for eight years with the Washington Examiner and the Washington Times. He previously covered local news for the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. A native of northern Illinois who spent much of his youth in St. Petersburg, Fla., he holds a bachelor's degree in English from Marquette University.