This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.
At a hearing on June 7, 2023, of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability, Rena Bitter, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said the Bureau and the Department of State have taken "extraordinary measures" to meet current U.S. passport and visa demand. Those measures include authorizing 30,000 to 40,000 overtime hours per month; moving personnel to Washington, DC; and hiring more adjudicative staff. The Bureau is requesting almost $100 million to fill pandemic-related vacancies and add nearly 300 new positions, she said.
Ms. Bitter said current routine passport processing time is 10 to 13 weeks. The Bureau also is "experiencing pent-up demand for U.S. visas resulting from the near shutdown of international travel" during the pandemic.
Forty-six percent of Americans have passports, up from 30 percent in 2008, she said. On the inbound travel side, she noted, in addition to the citizens of more than 40 visa waiver countries, potential travelers to the United States hold more than 49 million valid visitor visas and border crossing cards. "In fact, more foreign visitors have the ability to travel to the United States today than at any time in our history," she noted. In fiscal year 2022, the Bureau issued a record 22 million passport books and cards. She also noted that the Next Generation Passport, which was rolled out in 2022, "uses new technologies to produce a more robust passport with enhanced security features, such as a polycarbonate data page, laser-engraved personalization, and updated artwork."