Passport application wait times have returned to normal after years of backlogs, the State Department said Monday.
“With this update, we have fulfilled our commitment to return to benchmarks from March 2020,” the State Department said in a statement. “This reflects the work of dedicated employees working for the American people.”
In March, the State Department was receiving 500,000 passport applications each week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress, describing the demand as “unprecedented.”
The U.S. issued 22 million passports in the fiscal year that ended in September 2022 as Americans prepared to travel more freely again with COVID-19 subsiding. The following fiscal year set a new record, according to the State Department. Between October 2022 and last September, more than 24 million passport books and cards were issued.
Just 5% of Americans had a passport in 1990, according to the State Department. That number has now grown to 48% of Americans.
“More Americans can travel abroad now than at any time in our history,” the State Department said.
In July, amid ongoing passport processing delays, Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma proposed legislation that would improve online tracking of passport applications, allow the State Department to hire more staff and limit turnaround time to 12 weeks. The bill has since been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
“I’ve moved now three staff members into working just on passports … it’s overwhelming our office,” Lankford told CBS News in July.
In September, Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Ted Lieu of California introduced the PASSPORT Act to streamline the passport application and renewal process. Their proposal has also been referred to a committee.
Source : CBS News