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COSTA RICA'S LEADING ENGLISH LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER

U.S. passport services suffering lengthy delays

United States citizens hoping to travel abroad to Costa Rica (or elsewhere) should get an early start on their passport application or renewal.

The U.S. State Department says routine passport service is currently taking “up to 18 weeks from the day an application is submitted.” Before the pandemic, routine service was six to eight weeks, per The New York Times.

“During the most extensive travel shutdown in modern history, hundreds of thousands of Americans let their passports expire,” The New York Times report reads. “Others are only now seeing that their documents are set to expire soon.

“But despite the State Department making headway on a massive backlog of passport applications that piled up in the early months of the pandemic, appointments at passport agencies across the country remain elusive, and processing time for renewals by mail is lagging by 10 weeks or more.”

According to the State Department:

  • Routine service can take up to 18 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. The 18-week timeframe includes up to 12 weeks for processing and up to 6 weeks for mailing times on the front and back end.
  • Expedite service (for an additional $60) can take up to 12 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. The 12-week timeframe includes up to 6 weeks for processing and up to 6 weeks for mailing times on the front and back end.
  • Processing times (up to 12 weeks for routine; up to 6 weeks for expedite) do not include mailing times. Mail times vary and delays have been significant.

As we reported previously, U.S. citizens already abroad can use their expired passport to return home through 2021. The State Department alert on this topic reads as follows:

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If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may be able to use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until December 31, 2021.

You qualify for this exception if all the following are true:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
  • You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit (“connecting flights”) through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
  • Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
  • Your expired passport is undamaged.
  • Your expired passport is unaltered.
  • Your expired passport is in your possession.

You do not qualify for this exception if:

  • You wish to depart from the United States to an international destination.
  • You are currently abroad seeking to travel to a foreign country for any length of stay longer than an airport connection en route to the United States or to a United States territory.
  • Your expired passport was limited in validity.
  • Your expired passport is a special issuance passport (such as a diplomatic, official, service, or no-fee regular passport).
  • Your expired passport is damaged.
  • Your expired passport is altered.
  • Your expired passport is not in your possession.

All other passport rules and regulations remain in effect.

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Note that U.S. citizens (and citizens of all other foreign countries) need a valid passport in order to enter Costa Rica.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the US Embassy in Costa Rica is offering limited appointments for routine services such as passport renewals.

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