State Dept. dealing with ‘unprecedented’ passport demand

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 9:41 AM CDT
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(CNN) - Americans are looking to travel internationally again.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday there’s “unprecedented demand” for passports.

“We’ve had an unprecedented demand for renewed travel, which is a good thing. Historically, the demand has been cyclical. The busy season is kind of march to late summer. Basically, it’s full-time now,” Blinken said.

Blinken reported the department is receiving about 500,000 passport applications a week.

“That’s 30 to 40% above last year. So it’s dramatic,” he said.

He told the House Appropriations Committee that the department has increased staffing and resources to deal with it.

“Man, we have more people in the pipeline and that’s also reflected in the budget. It’s usually important,” Blinken said. “I have a task force established at headquarters to marshal all of these efforts so that we’re really digging in on this.”

Blinken reported that due to the demand, a regular passport application will be completed in about 10 to 13 weeks while an expedited passport will be done in about 7 to 9 weeks.

Blinken also noted a pilot program allowing Americans who already have a passport to renew online. But it has been paused as the department fine-tunes and improves it.

Once it’s back up and running, Blinken expects 65% of renewals to be done online.