Aug 24, 2023 - News

Passport delays and scams plague travelers

Animated illustration of US passports filling the screen.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

While the number of passport requests is down to about 430,000 a week from a record high of 560,000, it's still taking 10 to 13 weeks or so for documents to arrive in travelers' hands, according to the State Department.

Why it matters: Applying for a passport now, especially if you don't need it, is a good idea to save headaches later, Better Business Bureau of Washington spokesperson Logan Hickle told Axios.

  • Swindlers take advantage of high-demand situations and use people's desperation to lure them into scams, he said.

What's happening: Passport application and renewal requests caused by a huge surge in post-COVID travel and staff shortages remain overwhelming, per the State Department.

  • Overall this year, the weekly volume of applications is 30% to 40% higher than last year when 22 million passports were issued, the department said.

What to do: You can apply the traditional ways: at an acceptance facility, by mail, or — by appointment — at the Seattle Passport Agency on 5th Avenue.

  • Pay an additional $60 fee for faster service, which should slice three to four weeks off the processing time.
  • Use a third-party service to expedite the process.
  • Special passport acceptance fairs at post offices, libraries, and local government offices are being held over the next couple months in some states. (Not Washington, sadly).

Be smart: There are plenty of "bad actors and fake passport websites," Hickle said.

  • So far this year, the Better Business Bureau has received 264 reports nationwide about passport scams. Victims report losing money on official-looking websites set up to sell phony or non-existent passports, Hickle said.
  • Fake websites often collected applicants' Social Security Numbers and other personal information.
  • Make sure the website you're using for your passport ends in the word "gov."

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