Fast-Track Your U.S. Passport: State Department’s Online Renewals Are Back

A year ago U.S. passport renewals without paying extra for expedited service were taking months. Things have gotten much better, and expedited service recently turned my daughter’s passport around in under two weeks.

To speed things up, the State Department briefly introduced online renewals as a test, then they removed the option. Online renewals are back and if you need to renew a passport this is probably the easiest way to do it but not the fastest. It’s not clear whether this will remain an option, though clearly the intention is to make it one eventually.

  • This is for renewals only, and not new passports
  • Kids under 16 get ‘new passports’ every 5 years, rather than renewing passports every 10 years. Thus those under 16 cannot use this.

This system is in “beta” so they’re limiting the number of submissions each day, “open for a limited midday eastern time window each day, and will close once we reach our limit for the day.” They quote 6-8 weeks processing for online renewals, and do not offer expedited service for them.

If you need a passport in a super hurry, it’s possible to get emergency expedited service. The State Department makes appointments available for when you’re traveling within 72 hours or 14 days.

Since passports are necessary to exercise the right to travel, government needs to offer a reasonable process to obtain one or else they’re burdening this important right. Waiting months while paying extra is not acceptable. Needing a passport to travel is a relatively new idea. And so, apparently, is the government using the internet to manage application flow.

If it’s any consolation, foreigners are treated far worse. Those who need a visa have, in some cases, faced wait times of years to get an appointment.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Two very big benefits vs. mailing it in:

    1. Can pay by credit card and thus earn points.
    2. No need to print the picture, many people do not have easy access to a photo printer, so would have to add a step of printing at a pharmacy, or getting photo taken there.

  2. Always use my passport for TSA ID checks, though I never fly internationally. Just don’t trust my drivers’ license to be good for much besides driving. I remember the old days of presenting your license when using a check to pay, and the number of times the clerk would say “that license doesn’t look real” (even in my home state!). My trick knee tells me the Real ID rollout will include some stories like that at TSA checkpoints.

  3. I’m trying to time our renewal to fall into a window when we aren’t traveling, easier said than done though. As for visas for foreigners, it has become a nightmare. My wife’s mother has been waiting eight months just to get an appointment to renew her visa, while her sister has been told it will be at least 2026 before she can apply.

  4. Years ago I helped the nephew of a friend get a passport for a flight we were taking together. We went to a local public library (a branch of the government) to get the required photos and submit the paperwork with expedited fees paid. The government passport agency rejected the photos so new ones were required. When those were sent in, the government passport agency did not do expedited service although they had taken the fee for it. I had to tell him how to contact the case worker sections for each of the US Senators and the US Representative for his district to get the passport issued in time for the flight. He did as I directed and was given an appointment at the Federal Building in Westwood. CA to pick up his passport before the flight. He did that and we flew together on his first international flight.

  5. My daughter’s passport took just two weeks with no expediting fee in early January. I was shocked after reading all the horror stories.

  6. @sammons. I’d suggest getting both the passport book and card next renewal. While it costs more, the card can just be left in your wallet and is accepted by TSA.

  7. @Ron I feel the pain. I wish they had a system where I could schedule an appointment months in advance to renew in person right after an international trip. Charge me $500 extra, I’m OK with that. However, if this online system works and you get a one-month or better turn around, that’ll be great.

  8. My Global Entry application has been “Pending Review” for 13 months (since 18 May 2023)… I wish they would put some resources into speeding that process up…

  9. @Sammons and Dave W- better yet, use your Global Entry card as your real ID- finally a reason for that card!

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