SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Its been a summer of travel planning for many people in KELOLAND as more countries and destinations are easing their restrictions for vaccinated travelers. But as people prepare to head out, they’re finding one major technicality is still holding them back. The impact of the passport backlog and how to navigate this new challenge in tonight’s Eye on KELOLAND.
Tony and Jill Dunn said I do in August 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic.
“We really were limited on who we invited, just family,” Jill said.
While their wedding looked a little different than they’d imagined…
“It was kind of stressful, wondering what you could do, what you couldn’t do, it was a lot different,” Tony said.
Planning a traditional honeymoon during the pandemic wasn’t a possibility.
“We didn’t even look into, traveling last August was ridiculous,” Jill said.
Now they’re planning their big wedding get away for their one year anniversary.
“A trip like this has been quite a few years,” Tony said.
“Pre kids for me, so 12, 13 years ago,” Jill said.
But there’s a lingering pandemic-induced problem that could still stand in the way of their dream getaway.
Bridget Bennet: What do you feel right now about the passport situation?
“A little anxious about it,” Tony said. “If it doesn’t come we’ll have to change everything and go through it all again.”
Both of their passports needed to be renewed, so 16 weeks ahead of their trip, they mailed in their passport applications and were told it would take eight to 12 weeks.
“We figured we had plenty of time, now its not looking so good,” Tony said.
Now with just a few weeks before they’re supposed to take off for Mexico, they’re still waiting for their passports.
“Everyday just hoping its there, it’s stressful,” they said.
“Passports are definitely one of the issues we’re having. It’s taking a lot longer than what it ever has,” All About Travel consultant Lori Buus said. “In the 21 years I’ve been doing this, this is crazy.”
What used to take four to six weeks to process is now taking 18 weeks or more; even paying to expedite your passport still comes with a roughly 12 week wait.
“It used to be that you could get it back in two to three weeks if you expedite,” Buus said.
“We’re very frustrated like everyone else is,” South Dakota Senator John Thune said. “Anybody who’s trying to travel internationally right now and there are lots of people for whom the pandemic prevented that and are now anxious to get out, a lot of time seeing family they haven’t seen in a long time in addition you’ve got business travel, recreational travel, so this backup is just completely unacceptable.”
South Dakota Senator John Thune says his office and many others are putting pressure on the State Department to sort out this backlog.
“Partly, frankly, its getting people back to work. These people are working remotely and they’ve got to be back in the office to process some of this stuff so we are urging them to get their people back in the workplace,” Senator Thune said.
“In process, that means that its in the hands of somebody and they are reviewing your applications,” Buus said.
You can monitor the progress of your passport application on the travel.state website, but many applications stay at the ‘in process’ stage for at least a full 12 weeks.
“The next step is going to be it has been processed and is mailed,” Buus said.
But Buus says the state department is warning travelers that even the mailing process can take another six weeks; all timelines that are really just rough estimates.
‘We’ve had to cancel and re-book several times actually because we didn’t’ get the passport in time,” Buus said.
Buus says if your passport status doesn’t show mailed within two weeks of your trip, you should contact the passport office.
“Those numbers, it’s hard to get through, it can be hours and hours of wait time,”Buus said. “There’s also an email address that you can send an email to, there’s also your senator’s office that you can contact to see if you can get a little help there.”
“We do have resources in our office, we have somebody that specializes in this kind of work and if people need help, we can help push the process along, we’ve done that a lot,” Thune said.
Thune says all congressional offices have someone who specializes with working with the state department on behalf of their constituents.
“I would encourage people across South Dakota, start early, if you run into any roadblocks around the way that you need some help pushing through, get in touch with our office,” Thune said.
“We’re so close,” Jill Dunn said.
It’s a phone call the Dunns hope they won’t have to make as the countdown to their trip is now just three weeks away.
“I suppose we have travel insurance, so basically we’ll just be rebooking everything,” Jill said.
But they’re hopeful they won’t have to further delay their already postponed honeymoon.
“We would have to wait till harvest was done,” Jill said.
“Yeah, we’d have to wait another four months until we could go,” Tony said.
Another important reminder for anyone looking to book a trip outside of the U.S.–even if your passport isn’t expired right now, most countries require a valid passport for six months after your return date, so if yours expires within six months, its time to renew. It could take that long to get your updated passport back.