Expect major passport delays as Americans rush to return to travel

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Countries all over the world started welcoming back American visitors this summer after nearly 18 months of COVID travel restrictions.

But as thousands of people rush to book their international vacations or visit family, they’re finding another major snag in their travel plans: A warning about the passport situation.

AAA travel consultant Terry Ten Cate has been on the phone with clients nonstop for the past few weeks.

“More and more of Europe is opening all the time and people are very, very excited to go,” Ten Cate said. “River cruises, touring London and Paris and Amsterdam and all those, so we are being inundated. The flood gates are open and that’s a good thing, it’s good that people can travel worldwide.”

But as travelers look to book their flights, they’re running into one major issue.

“Do they have a valid passport?” Ten Cate said. 

It’s one of the first questions he asks any client considering a trip outside of the U.S. 

“A lot of people have been finding out they don’t, since they haven’t been going anywhere the past 18 months, at least internationally,” he said. 

If you don’t have a valid passport on hand, it could be months before you can travel, a big change from the four to six weeks it used to take for a passport application to process.

“You’re looking at anywhere from 12 weeks if you expedite your passport to as many as 18 weeks or longer if you normally send it in,” Ten Cate said. “Some people just don’t have that time to have three months, four months to wait for a passport when they’re hoping to get travel in this summer or early fall.”

The increased wait times is why AAA is suggesting everyone who can, should expedite their application. But even if you spend the extra cash to expedite, there’s no guarantee you’ll receive your passport within 12 weeks.

“We have had people who have already had that occur,” Ten Cate said. “They sent it in and found out the passport may not be here within the time of their travel. We’ve had to reschedule and rebook or cancel the tour, so then you’re spending even more money.”

If you’re even thinking about traveling outside of the U.S., AAA suggests checking your passport and sending in your application right away.

“Don’t wait. Even if its seven months before your passport expires, I’d get it renewed now, because it may take you that much time,” Ten Cate said. 

Even currently valid passports may need to be renewed before traveling internationally. Ten Cate says many countries require your return date to be at least six months before your passport expires.

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