US passport processing times are up. Here's how long you'll have to wait.
Planning ahead for summer trips this year may help travelers find deals, but those leaving the country need to prepare for another reason: U.S. passport wait times are up again.
Routine processing of U.S. passport applications will now take 10 to 13 weeks, the State Department said in a news release Friday. Expedited service, meanwhile, will take seven to nine weeks. The processing times apply to new applications on March 24 or later.
Processing times had risen to between eight and 11 weeks for routine service and five to seven weeks for expedited service earlier this year, though they are still below levels seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, when travelers could expect to wait about four months for routine service.
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"Processing times are cyclical and rise and fall based on seasonal demand," the State Department's Office of the Spokesperson said in the release. "However, the volume of applications we have received during periods this year has outpaced records set by last year's volume by more than 30 percent."
Those processing times do not include mailing times, and it may take as long as two weeks for applications sent by mail to get to a passport agency or center, according to the State Department's website.
How much is a US passport?
Travelers 16 and up applying for a passport for the first time have to pay an application fee and an acceptance fee. Application fees cost $130 for a passport book, $30 for a passport card and $160 for both, according to the State Department. The acceptance fee is $35 for each option.
Those 16 and older who are renewing their passports need to pay the same application fees but do not have to pay an acceptance fee. For children younger than 16, application fees run $100 for a passport book, $15 for a passport card and $115 for both, with a $35 acceptance fee for each option.
Travelers who waited until the last minute can pay a $60 fee to expedite their passports. They can also pay an additional $19.53 for one- to two-day delivery. That option is not available to applicants for passport cards alone, though.
The State Department has an online fee calculator that can help travelers figure out how much they will pay.
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Where do I go to get a passport?
For routine and expedited service, travelers can apply at an acceptance facility or renew by mail (some have to apply in person, including those who have never had a U.S. passport and children under 16).
Those who have urgent international travel plans within 14 calendar days or need a foreign visa within 28 calendar days can call 1-877-487-2778 to make an appointment, though some restrictions apply, according to the State Department. Travelers may also qualify for life-or-death emergency appointments if they have to travel internationally in three business days.
Online passport renewal is closed to new customers but will reopen later this year.
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Those applying can find passport forms and photo requirements on the State Department's website.
Do you need a passport for a cruise?
Not necessarily. U.S. citizens booked on closed-loop cruises, which begin and end at the same U.S. port, can enter the country with a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID, but the State Department recommends having a passport "in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port," according to its website. The cruise line a traveler is sailing with may also require it.
Nathan Diller is a consumer travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US passport wait times up as high as 13 weeks. Here's what to know