25 Investigates: Passports backlog easing

State Department reduces COVID-related processing delays

BOSTON — The wait time to receive a non-expedited passport has dropped by a month. The U.S. State Department told 25 Investigates that routine applications are now being processed in 14 weeks. Previously, it took 18 weeks for standard renewals and new applications.

In July, 25 Investigates reported on a massive backlog of pending applications that lead to delays as long as six months.

The problem began when passport processing facilities closed for several months last year due to the pandemic. Many offices were not fully staffed when they reopened. There was a backlog of 2 million pending applications during the height of the summer travel season.

A State Department spokesperson said the agency increased staffing and overtime to reduce the backlog.

“While we know this incremental progress won’t give immediate relief to those whose passport applications are in process, we continue to take steps to serve our customers as quickly as the health and safety of our workforce and our customers allow” the spokesperson said.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) told 25 Investigates his office was inundated with passport complaints over the summer, but he said the number of people seeking emergency passport appointments has dropped.

“There does seem to be a regular pattern of approvals. We’ve been very fortunate enough in our Boston passport office at the O’Neill building, they’ve been doing a very good job. It’s still tight. But they’re almost done with the backlog there,” Lynch said.