Faced with a backlog of passport applications and complaints from frustrated travelers who have waited up to three months to get their new passports, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have temporarily suspended new passport requirements for U.S. citizens.
The massive increase in passport applications is a result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which went into effect January 23 and requires U.S. travelers to present passports when flying to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The State Department says that it processed more than 4 million passport applications from March through May, and it has millions more to process as the busy summer travel season arrives.
With the temporary passport rules, U.S. citizens traveling to the above Western Hemisphere destinations who have applied for but haven’t received passports can still enter and depart from U.S. airports as long as they have a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license), along with proof that they have applied for a passport. U.S. citizens with pending passport applications can obtain proof of application at http://travel.state.gov. The temporary rules will stay in effect through September 30.