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U.S. passport processing times return to pre-pandemic levels

Processing times for U.S. passport applications have returned to pre-pandemic levels, the State Department announced Monday.

Routine passport applications are currently processed within six to eight weeks, while expedited service, which costs an additional $60, takes two to three weeks, the department said.

‘With this update, we have fulfilled our commitment to return to benchmarks from March 2020,’ the department said in a statement. ‘This reflects the work of dedicated employees working for the American people.’

A US citizen holds his passport while waiting at the border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Mohammed Talatene / Picture alliance via Getty Images

Lingering pandemic-related factors and a surge in overseas travel had disrupted processing times earlier this year, scuppering plans for thousands. As recently as July, routine processing times had slowed to between 10 and 13 weeks, and seven to nine weeks for expedited processing. The department said that, during some weeks this summer, it saw nearly 400,000 applications submitted.

A department spokesperson said staffing levels had increased by 12% since December 2022, with hundreds of additional staffers in the hiring pipeline. Department staffers have also worked tens of thousands of hours of overtime. From January 2023 through October 2023, the department authorized 30,000 to 40,000 overtime hours each month. It also tapped volunteers from across the department working on surge teams, including retirees and new hires adjudicating passports before reporting to other assignments.

Nearly half of all Americans, around 48%, now possess a current U.S. passport, compared with just 5% in 1990. There are now over 160 million valid U.S. passports in circulation, nearly double the amount from 2007.

While Transportation Security Administration screenings at U.S. airports continue to set records some days, there are signs that the post-pandemic ‘revenge travel’ trend is slowing down, as flyers trim budgets amid a slowing economy.

This post appeared first on NBC NEWS

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