I recently went to get a passport (and by recently, I mean June, and it’s November already). I was warned, of course, that it would take eighteen weeks when I had my passport appointment, but it’s not like I’m in a rush to go anywhere. So, standard processing, and it just showed up in the mail last week. This seems like a long time to wait.
Standard passport processing is currently eight to eleven weeks, according to the U.S. Government (United States, 2021). This is 56 to 77 days, if you were wondering. This seems like a very long time. Is this normal?
I looked at other countries. To sort through the myriad options, I assumed the applicant is an adult, who does not live conveniently close to the central passport office, and is applying from within his or her own country, to obtain a non-rushed first-time passport. I also assumed this adult had made it to the point of the passport appointment with all the appropriate paperwork (and alarmingly, bribes). From there I counted the outer range of time, based on when you could pick it up or when the issuing authority stopped counting. This is an issue, as some countries allow you to pick it up, some mail it, some count the mailing time in their processing estimates, and some have decided the postal wait is a separate issue.
To sum that up, this is how long you may wait for a passport after your appointment:
Albania’s standard first-time adult passport can be had within 15 days (eAleat, 2021).
Angola, 30 days (Jornal de Angola, 2019).
Antigua and Barbuda, 21 days (Antigua and Barbuta, 2015).
Argentina, 15 days (Argentinia, n.d.).
Australia, 21 days (Australia, n.d.).
Austria, 5 days (Austria, 2020).
Bahamas, 35 days (Bahamas, 2020).
Brazil, 10 days (Brasil, 2021).
Canada, 20 days (Canada, 2021).
Hong Kong, 10 days, plus a long list of possible delaying factors (Hong Kong, 2021).
Indonesia, 7 days (Indonesia, 2019).
Taiwan, 4 days (Taiwan, 2021).
United States, 77 days (United States, 2021).
The larger countries of India and China have broken their passport duties down, so each state, region, or territory handles issuing passports for the people who live there. I wondered if the number of people handled by each issuing agency made a difference. So I checked Indonesia, and they advertise a seven day processing time on a main website for the whole country (Indonesia, 2019). It's possible to be efficient for a large population, it's just not happening in the United States.
For my list, I was going to get all the countries, but it turned out to be extremely time-consuming. Often the issuing body does not post how long it takes to get a passport, as in the case of Greece. Still, Greece advertises rush passports to its citizens within a single day, which indicates pretty decent efficiency.
“Généralement beaucoup d'attente”
To illustrate the problems gathering data, I present France. Their official time estimate is “Généralement beaucoup d'attente,” which means “usually a lot of waiting” per google translate (France, 2021). They also have this graph to explain how their wait times vary over the course of the year.
It looks like the French passport office has the fastest turn-around in the fall. It is still unclear how long you will wait.
I’d like to track it all down the rest of it and run some statistics, but this was a spare time project. I’ve included everything I’ve found so far. (If this sparks someone's interest let me know, and I’ll track down some more numbers).
What seems pretty obvious so far is that waiting up to 11 weeks for a passport to be processed is not normal. In fact, any Department of Motor Vehicles could probably do better, even if staffed solely with sloths, it's that bad. At this point, the U.S. Federal Government appears to be among the worst in the world for efficient passport processing. This wait for passports is unreasonable and unnecessary. The U.S. Federal Government has shown they are unable to manage passport processing with any degree of competence. I recommend that the process be turned over to the States. If you have other ideas for how to fix this, I’d be interested in hearing them.
In the meantime, the contact information for your U.S. Senator can be found here, and your U.S. Representative here.
Antigua and Barbuta. (2015). Passports. Immigration Department. https://immigration.gov.ag/general-services/passports/
Argentinia. (n.d.). Tramitar el Pasaporte regular. Ministerio del Interior. https://www.argentina.gob.ar/servicio/tramitar-el-pasaporte-regular
Australia. (n.d.). How long to get a passport. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. https://www.passports.gov.au/getting-passport-how-it-works/how-long-get-passport
Austria. (2020, January 29). Reisedokumente. Bundersminterium FÜR Inneres. https://www.bmi.gv.at/news.aspx?id=64435935726F6F4A70454D3D
Bahamas. (2020). Applying for a passport. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. https://mofa.gov.bs/applying-passport/
Brasil. (2021, October 12). Obter Passaporte. Viagens e Turismo. https://www.gov.br/pt-br/servicos/obter-passaporte-comum-para-brasileiro
Canada. (2021, April 29). Services for Canadians in Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada service standards. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/mandate/service-declaration/service-standards.html
eAleat. (2021). Pasaportë biometrike. eAleat Identity Services. https://www.aleat.al/al/pasaporte-biometrike
France. (2021). Rendez-vous en mairie pour un passeport. France. https://passeports.fr/mairies-agrees
Hong Kong. (2021, May 31). Application for HKSAR Passport. Immigration Department. https://www.immd.gov.hk/eng/service/travel_document/apply_for_hksar_passport.html
Indonesia. (2019, January 7). Membuat Paspor Biasa Secara Online. Portal Informasi Indonesia. https://indonesia.go.id/layanan/keimigrasian/sosial/membuat-paspor-biasa-secara-online
Jornal de Angola. (2019, Feburary 20). Tempo de emissão de passaporte cai para 15 dias. Jornal de Angola. jornaldeangola.ao/ao/noticias/tempo-de-emissao-de-passaporte-cai-para-15-dias/
Taiwan. (2021, February 22). Method I of applying for first passport in Taiwan. Bureau of Consular Affairs. https://www.boca.gov.tw/cp-304-6325-0b52a-2.html
United States. (2021, October 29). Passports. U.S. Department of State. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html
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