The Passport Services agency of the United States Department of State has increased the processing time for international travelers to as long as eight weeks.
According to The Washington Post, the agency said it would now take between six and eight weeks to successfully process a passport application, a 50 percent increase from the four-to-six wait time experienced before May 31.
State Department officials said it offers an expedited processing service for an additional $60, which speeds up the arrival time of passports to between two and three weeks. While officials declined to comment on the long wait times when asked by The Post, the State Department did indicate short-staffing was to blame.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration “requested a 2.5 percent increase in airport checkpoint screeners for fiscal 2020,” according to The Post. The increase in employees would help with the forecasted rise in travelers.
Despite the record number of passports and passport cards delivered each of the last two years, the number of passport specialists employed by the government has dropped by 14 percent. Now, union leaders are complaining about mandatory overtime hours as a result.
“To address high passport workload levels this summer, the Department is leveraging all available resources to ensure processing times do not rise further and that they return to lower levels by September,” a State Department official who declined to be named told The Post.