Heath Kern, Director of Digital Media, provides additional information in the video above.
Steven Royster, Spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, comments on the latest developments regarding passport applications.
We are back on top of our passport game. Over the summer, the Consular Affairs Bureau, with the support of the whole Department, worked hard and now we're back to processing routine passport applications in no more than six weeks. This is great news, and provides for a smooth transition as we return to passport rules that went into effect in January. Once again, all Americans must have passports when returning to the United States on international flights (with one exception, see "If you traveled under... below).
One of the many things we did this summer was work with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security to minimize inconveniences to the American public as we worked through the record demand for passports (we issued 18 million passports in the year ending in September - compared to 12 million the year before). Under this "accommodation," as we've come to call it in-house, Americans who were waiting for their passport could fly back home after trips to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda with proof that they had applied for the passport. This accommodation was scheduled to end on September 30, and as the date approaches we find ourselves turning around passports as promptly as we did before those travel rules went into effect.
But over the past few days, reporters have been calling me about the "change in passport rules." They're actually disappointed when I explain that this "change" is just a return to the way it was before. But it's just that simple - we're going back to the rules in January: if you're flying out of the United States, you'll be just fine if you have passport in hand when you return. If you traveled under our "accommodation" before September 30, you can return to the U.S. with the same proof of passport application you used when you left.
This means that, despite the changes in rules and proposals over the past few months, that if you're planning to travel internationally, the best advice is the simplest: Apply now for your passport. With new hires and plans for meeting even greater increases in demand in the months ahead, we're ready. We're handling record numbers of passport applications, but we're turning them around as fast as we did last year.
By the way, this gives me a chance to share my personal passport story. In the height of our summer passport crunch, I dropped my application in the mail to renew it. My new passport showed up in the mail about seven weeks later, even as stories ran across the countries about Americans whose applications took longer. While service was disrupted for some customers, many of us got our passports back with time to spare. Still, it's great to be able to share news today that we expect that all travelers who apply today should have their passports within six weeks.