Americans looking to apply for or renew a passport will face a wait time of as much as 18 weeks, making summer travel unlikely unless they already have a valid document or seek an emergency appointment, a top State Department official said.

The State Department is staffing up to address a backlog of some 1.5 million passport applications, but ripple effects from the coronavirus pandemic mean it can still take several months for citizens to get their documents back, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rachel Arndt told reporters on Wednesday.

The department has "extremely limited" appointments for people who have urgent travel within 72 hours, but generally citizens should seek to apply for a passport or renewal about six months in advance of travel, Arndt said. Applicants can also pay an extra $60 to speed up the process but even the faster turnaround time will likely be 12 weeks, she added.

Arndt said the State Department is also dealing with an unprecedented number of calls as people seek updates on their applications, though that information can be found online after all the necessary documents have been submitted.

(Stars and Stripes)

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