Passport application logjam puts spring travel plans for thousands in limbo

Spring break plans for thousands of Americans are now in a state of limbo as the U.S. State Department struggles to handle a backlog of passport applications.

"This is my last resort, after this, I don’t know what to do," said one woman, who applied in early February and still has yet to receive her passport. 

With her spring travel plans, just around the corner, she was hoping to plead with officials at the San Francisco Passport Agency for help.  

"I thought I would have it in time. That’s why I didn’t even request to have it expedited in the beginning."

Prior to Feb. 6, the State Department estimated six to nine weeks for passport application processing under routine service. For those willing to shell out an extra $60, the estimated wait time was three to five weeks. Since then, estimated processing times for routine service have ballooned to ten to thirteen weeks. And her experience has been far from unique.  

"I sent the money, I sent the passport, I sent the photo, and then nothing for months," said another man standing outside the San Francisco Passport Agency.

Many are now enlisting the help of their representatives or senators to try to speed things up. 

The State Department is continuing to blame the backlog on "unprecedented demand" for travel post-pandemic. 

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Over the winter, the department says it received more than 500,000 applications during certain weeks. 

Officials say they are busy hiring at U.S. passport agencies, opening satellite offices, and approving overtime to help dig out. 

But for many, it’s help that hasn’t come soon enough. 

Passport Waiting Time offers a forum for thousands of frustrated applicants to document their experiences. 

One person posted on Thursday, "It’s been 20 weeks, well beyond all estimated times…I have received no update whatsoever in the three intervening months. Countless calls to the passport office have been fruitless."

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Back outside the San Francisco Passport Agency, some said they were able to book a rush passport appointment.

"We struck out, and we only had to come to San Francisco which is a two-hour drive from Sacramento," said Sally Dunbar, who was able to book an appointment with her husband in time for their trip. 

But they said their daughter was not as lucky when she applied. 

"The only appointment, she was calling from Sacramento, was in Boston. So they flew to Boston."