August 2021: It now takes twice as long (door to door) as it did during the 'stay at home' period when a lot of us renewed our passports...dreaming of the day we could travel again. The State Department at least gets points for honesty.

So this is where we are now. It is taking up to 18 weeks for passport applications and renewals to be completely processed and returned to you, with 'normal' service from the State Department.

For comparison, I renewed my passport at the end of 2020...we were all mostly home with not much to do. I mailed it at the end of August and got it back exactly 12 weeks later, along with a Passport Card. (I've never used one but figured I'd get one this time around.)

Here's what the State Department has to say, as of August 2021:

"It may take 5 to 6 weeks from the day you submit your application until your status is “In Process.” During this time, your application is delivered to a mail facility, your payment is processed, and your application is entered into our system. Even if your passport status update says, “Not Available,” your application and supporting documents are safely on their way to us."

  • Routine 18 weeks (includes up to 12 weeks processing and 6 weeks mailing)
  • Expedited 12 weeks (includes up to 6 weeks processing and 6 weeks mailing)
  • Expedited at Agency Must have international travel within 72 hours (3 business days)

Always keep in mind that "urgent travel" is not the same as "life of death travel" to the State Department. You won't be charged for making an appointment but you DO have to make an appointment, not just a phone call.

You have to apply in person if: You are applying for your first U.S. passport, You are under age 16, Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16, Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damaged, Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago....otherwise you can fill out the forms and send your stuff in to get renewed.

LOOK: 14 Places to Visit With Direct Flights From Billings

While people in Montana may find it hard to travel anywhere from Billings because it usually requires flights with multiples stops, we found great opportunities just in the cities where Billings flies direct.