Passport processing in the Phoenix-area slow amid summer travel demand

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Travel experts all agree this is going to be a big year for taking a trip out of the country. If you already have a passport, you’re ahead of the game. But If you don’t, it may be a struggle to get one in a timely matter.

“There’s a lot of people that are ready to travel internationally again, and not everything in the system is fully caught up,” said Summer Hull, content director for “The Points Guy,” a travel website. She says the State Department is taking eight to 11 weeks to process passport applications. That’s not counting the time it takes to get an appointment in order to hand in the application.

That alone can take a month or more. “Really, the entire process can easily take three or four months, which means you really have to plan ahead,” Hull said.

If it’s your first time getting a passport, you must fill out an application, gather all the documents it requests, and then take it to a “passport acceptance facility.” They’re typically found in post offices, courthouses, and city government offices. But if you go online to schedule an appointment right now, you’ll find them booked up solid. On Your Side found appointments booked out to mid-April!

There is one trick to getting an appointment sooner. “So, you do not have to go to the post office in your hometown to handle your passport,” Hull said. “Where I live, some of the post offices in the little, more rural area, they have available appointments more frequently than the ones in the more urban areas.”

If you’re willing to drive an hour out of town, your options open up. For example, On Your Side discovered plenty of appointments available just a week at the post office in Eloy, about 60 miles south of the Valley.

And if you are worried that you are still cutting it close to get a passport in hand for your vacation, you can pay for faster service. “To get a passport soon, you’re gonna want to do the expedited option,” Hull said. “That will take you from eight to 11 weeks to five to seven weeks. It adds $60 to it but that’s probably well worth it if you need to cut down the time.”

Some advice: check and double-check that everything in your application packet is correct before turning it in. You’d be surprised how many applications get rejected because of a mistake, adding valuable waiting time to the process.

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