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Can I travel abroad soon? These passport and pandemic updates will help you decide

Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The U.S. State Department on Aug. 6 relaxed its pandemic warnings about international travel, which means more Americans may be thinking about big trips.

Certainly, more people are boarding planes. Government tallies show that 831,789 travelers went through TSA airport checkpoints on Sunday, far below last year's numbers, but the highest total since March 17.

For those planning international vacations, there are at least two big questions to consider:

1. Your passport?

If you need a new or renewed passport, it's difficult to predict when you might receive it. Though the State Department has chipped away at its backlog of passport applications, it still has a long way to go and a reduced workforce at its passport offices nationwide.

The agency says its main priority now is processing passport requests for life-or-death emergencies, and it won't estimate how long it will take to process conventional requests, whether new or in the pipeline.


However, Los Angeles Times readers have shared anecdotal reports of wait times of five weeks to more than three months:

-- In Weatherford, Texas, V.B. submitted her passport renewal on May 22 "and finally received an email it will be mailing to us on Aug. 12." But some parts of the process moved faster than others. G.B., who is married to V.B., wrote that their check "cleared the bank in less than a week after mailing in the application."

-- In Pleasanton, Calif., Erik Scherer said he submitted his passport renewal in early July. "I think I am happy to report that I received the passport back today," Scherer wrote Aug. 8. "I say 'think' because I had (the) photo taken with full-on pandemic hair."

-- In Diamond Bar, Calif., Randy Kung said he applied for a passport renewal during the week of April 5, in the early weeks of the passport office's closure, and signed up for email notification of his application's status. More than three months later, on July 27, he received email notification. On July 30, the passport arrived.


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