In the past few months, the U.S. Department of State released a notice regarding an increase in the processing time for passports, which threatens to affect students attending the Rome semester.
Aidan Kheriaty, a sophomore politics major, discussed the issues he recently faced acquiring his first adult passport. When asked about his experience, he said, “It was very backed up. Even just getting an appointment was very backed up. I had to wait over a month just to get in, and then it’s another few months after that, even if you expedite it, and maybe that will save you a week or two.”
Kheriaty reported that it took approximately eight to nine weeks to obtain his passport.
Kheriaty’s experience is in line with U.S. Department of State reports. In their latest update on March 24, 2023, the department said, “[W]e are processing routine applications in 10- 13 weeks, and expedited applications in 7-9 weeks. Processing times begin when we receive your application at a passport agency or center, and do not include mailing times. It may take up to 2 weeks for us to receive your application after you mail it to us, and up to 2 weeks for you to receive your completed passport after we mail it to you.”
Although acquiring a passport has always been a prolonged process, 10-13 weeks is over twice as long as the process used to take. Rebecca Davies, director of the Rome and summer programs office, said, “Prior to COVID-19, passport processing times were 4-6 weeks for regular processing and 2-3 weeks for expedited processing. During COVID, processing times increased significantly as passport creation requires on- site work and most U.S. Department of State employees were working remotely.”
Dr. Richard Miller, associate professor of operations management at the Gupta College of Business, renewed his passport in 2019 before COVID.
“Usually, I think it was a 4 – 6 week process for regular [passports], and I had about 2 or 3 months [to get it], and even the expedited [passport] then was going to take 4 – 6 weeks,” he said. “Regular, I think, was like 3 – 4 months for [a] renewal.”
A primary reason for the delay in pass- port processing is the massive increase in international travel by Americans. “As more Americans are traveling internationally again, we are directing resources to meet the unprecedented demand seen so far in 2023,” said the U.S. Department of State. “We are on track to set the record for the highest demand year ever, far surpassing volumes seen during previous surges in demand in 2007 and 2017. During some weeks this winter, the department received more than 500,000 applications, the highest number ever for this time of year, exceeding our official projections.”
This increase in travel abroad has affected more than just passport processing times.
“There is an increase in the number of students wanting to study abroad after COVID-19 shutdowns, which has also affected visa processing times,” said Davies.
Davies expressed concern for students interested in going to Rome in the near future and urged all students considering applying for the Rome semester in the next year and a half to preemptively apply for their passports.
“A number of fall 2023 and spring 2024 Rome applicants were initially waitlisted, as they had not received their passports by the application deadline,” she said. “Were there to be a late applicant to spring 2024 Rome who still hadn’t applied for their passport by now, they would be unable to attend the program, as visas take 90 days to process after the 7-9 week passport expediting time. My current concern is for the students who will be applying for summer and fall 2024 and spring 2025 Rome terms. They should be applying now for their passports to avoid being waitlisted.”
Kheriaty and Miller gave the same advice for students who need new passports, emphasizing the need to start the passport application process as soon as possible.
“I’ve heard it’s better in smaller cities when you’re getting a passport. You can get an appointment quicker. I wish I’d done it back home rather than here in Dallas,” said Kheriaty.
“As soon as you are sitting in your first day of class for the fall, start your passport process, so that by January, hopefully, you get it without having to do the expedited. The same thing is true for the fall,” said Miller. “Start before you leave here in May.”