As pandemic-related travel restrictions were lifted this spring and summer, Americans from all corners of the country made plans to travel for business, visit loved ones outside the United States, study abroad, and go on long-delayed vacations. Unfortunately, we also saw many folks face long delays and canceled trips due to delays in passport services. That’s why I joined colleagues from both sides of the aisle in urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the National Passport Information Center to get things moving.The good news is that processing times have been reduced slightly since the summer, but services are still taking longer than we were used to in a pre-COVID world. While I continue to push for action to address the backlog, I want to make sure you have up-to-date information about travel recommendations and current passport timelines.
I cannot stress this enough: If you are planning a trip abroad, be sure to check the status of your passport ASAP and apply for any renewals or new documents immediately.
When planning to travel outside the United States, there are a few steps you must take:Obtain a passport, or check your passport’s expiration date if you already have oneCheck for travel advisories from the State DepartmentCheck for foreign travel requirementsCheck for U.S. reentry requirementsHere is a breakdown of each of these four critical steps below.
Obtain a Passport, or Check Your Passport’s Expiration Date if You Already Have
OneIt’s very important to ensure your passport is up to date before booking any flights. If you are getting a passport for the first time, you should plan to apply 4-6 months in advance. You’ll be required to apply in person using Form DS-11 if at least one of the following is true:You are applying for your first U.S. passportYou are under age 16Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damagedYour previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years agoIf you need a passport renewal, it’s important to note that the timelines have changed due to the pandemic and, now, an increasing demand for passports and other travel documents.At this time, it can take up to 14 weeks to receive your passport after sending in the application. If you apply for expedited service, it is recommended you send your application using USPS Priority Mail Express. With this service, your passport can be expected within 10 weeks. Both of these timelines are based on the latest updates from the State Department — effective October 8, 2021. If you applied for a passport renewal and have not received it within 14 weeks for a routine application or 10 weeks for an expedited application, a letter has likely been sent to you requesting more information. At this point, if you did not get a letter and are concerned, you can reach out to our office at 610–626–2020.It’s essential to plan accordingly and allow enough time before your planned travel since in-person appointments at the Philadelphia Passport Agency are extremely limited. They reserve the majority of their appointments for applicants with life or death emergencies overseas
.Check for Travel Advisories from the State DepartmentWhen considering travel outside of the United States, the State Department recommends always looking at their travel advisories before booking any flights. You can check the latest alerts for any country on the State Department’s website by entering the name of your destination country on the right-hand side.The State Department also recommends enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so they know you will be out of the country and can provide up-to-date safety and security information. You can enroll in the program here.
Check for Foreign Travel RequirementsMany countries have COVID-19 testing and/or vaccination requirements in place for travelers. To find these requirements, visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for that country. A comprehensive list of these websites is available through the State Department.
Check for U.S. Reentry RequirementsFinally, it’s important to note that there are requirements for reentering the United States after international travel. At this time, the CDC requires all air passengers entering the United States (including U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test. If you are fully vaccinated and traveling with proof of vaccination, you must get tested no more than three days before your flight to the U.S. departs. If you are not fully vaccinated and are 2 years or older, you must get tested no more than one day before your flight to the U.S. departs. Airlines must confirm the negative test result or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days for all passengers two years of age and over prior to boarding. Airlines are required to deny boarding of passengers who do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery. Learn more by visiting the CDC’s FAQ.As travel continues to increase and more countries open to tourism, it’s essential that you stay updated. You can follow the U.S. Department of State at @travelgov on Facebook and Twitter for the most current information. Additionally, you can always call our office at 610–626–2020 with any questions.Sincerely,Mary GayP.S. If you aren’t regularly receiving email updates from our office and would like to be added to our mailing list, you cansign up now.