US Opening Up Online Passport Renewals This Month, Will Become Permanent Option Next Year

Passport applications in the U.S. are needlessly cumbersome, involving lots of paper and the U.S. mail or getting an in-person appointment. Children under 16 actually have to appear in-person, and their passports are valid for just 5 years instead of 10.

That’s annoying, but the bigger problem is how long it can take to get a passport processed. There shouldn’t be a need to pay an extra ‘expedite’ fee to get the passport in weeks. That’s not expeditious.

Routine passport service, which once took as little as six weeks, is currently estimated to take between seven and 10 weeks. Expedited service, which costs an additional $60, and before the pandemic would have taken up to three weeks, is now estimated to take between four and six weeks.

Government failure to process leaves many people in need of ‘last minute’ appointments in the days (not hours) leading up to a trip.

Some progress may be on the way making it faster to submit passport renewals – moving those to an optional online system, which saves time in the mail and also should save time waiting for data to be entered upon receipt.

The State Department trialed an online renewal system for government employees. It was also available to ‘friends and family’ of government employees. And they weren’t verifying your actual friend status – so a number of readers used the trial to renew their passports more easily.

From there they’ve continued to make the feature available

  • A public trial for 25,000 people ran August 2 – 12
  • A third trial will run starting in the back half of September
  • And a new system should go live in 2023

Eligibility to renew online:

  • You must have no more than a year left on your current passport, and if your passport is expired it can’t have been issued more than 15 years ago (so expired for 5 years)
  • You must be 25 years or older and not changing your name or gender on your passport
  • You must live in the United States
  • And your current passport cannot be lost or damaged (although since you’re not sending in your current passport, I’m unclear how they’d know it’s damaged, that just can’t be the reason for replacement – see expiration period above).

There’s one warning in all of this though. With online renewal you do not mail in your current passport (and therefore don’t get it mailed back to you). However your current passport is supposed to become invalid as soon as you hit submit on an online renewal application.

(HT: @crucker)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. I did this and obviously it’s better than having to mail it in, but it still took the full eight weeks to process.

  2. Good to see our government become more modern, but the whole concept of a passport is archaic, and should be abandoned. Technology exists to know who I am without me having to present to you a physical document of identity. Why do I need to carry a passport to enter any country? Can’t I assert who I am, and then you can check that against your database, look up my profile, and make a determination to allow or deny my entry?

  3. My wife and I took advantage of the trial period for online renewals (had to request and be approved). Got new passports in 5 weeks. Definitely an improvement. Only issue was the info on photos was very vague and took many attempts to get a ne that was accepted.

    Overall – love online renewal and should have happened years ago

  4. Good idea and hopefully will become a solid option. I’d not like to see it the only one as some people have real trouble with computers and the like, even if most of them are not international travelers.

    Quick thought for Sharpay: I agree eventually passports might disappear, but not every border in the world is, or likely will be, online. By bus, or walking at times, I’ve crossed some pretty sketchy ones into places like Haiti, pre-war Iraq and Peru that were lucky to have electricity. Anyway it is fun to collect the stamps. They are good souvenirs though when we get off a cruise ship my wife thinks I’m nuts to run over to the nearest police/immigration office. (Most officials are happy that anyone cares.)

  5. @Sharpey:

    Many countries require a physical visa (China, India, Tanzania, etc.). Others may not have the computer capacity to handle the transaction online (e.g., Vanuatu, East Timor, etc.). And still others may wish to make a physical restriction on entry (e.g., 30 day visa, no employment, etc.)

  6. So apparently it’s no good if you’re simply running out of space because you travel a lot and need to renew early? I suppose this is a start but the whole passport operation has been poorly run for some time.

  7. @DaveS – You can request an extra large passport with more pages next time. Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on the government’s part.

  8. @C_M
    The extra large passports were discontinued years ago. If you’re going to whip out the snark, at least make sure you know what you’re talking about?

  9. This would be great, but I’d like to see a real expedite option like 1 week or 3 days for a renewal, for both expiration or low pages reasons. It’s insane trying to get appointments thanks to reselling. Even if you need a visa within 4 weeks like it says, you still can’t get an appointment unless travel is 2 weeks or less. And depending on your state rep or senator, you may or may not receive help. For people that work internationally on rotation, they have a set amount of days to get stuff done. And even 3 weeks for a passport is too long. Plus, with all the entry/exit stamps and visas, even the big book only lasts about 4 years. But anyway…this is a start and hopefully a good one.

  10. Lol it’s also possible to fill up the entire larger version passport well before the expiry date.

  11. My previous passport had stamps on every page and every page full. It was the closing days of allowing extra pages added, so I got that. The addition had stamps but it wasn’t full.

    Countries are now stamping passports less. Australia no longer sticks an adhesive visa except for special circumstances. The UK no longer stamps passports. My passport will be mostly blank pages when I renew it. I ordered the thicker version but my next passport will be the normal version.

  12. I renewed online in the public trial this spring. Everything was really smooth except my church didn’t take a good enough photo for the online application’s photo analyzer (the same photos had been usable for years when you stapled the small print to the application). I had a friend take one with my phone and it took that fine.

    Long overdue, the only negative feedback I had was telling them the wording was vague and inaccurate when it said my photo “may” be too low quality and rejected it with no ability to appeal.

  13. When I first heard about this, I thought it would be the solution to my passport troubles. I travel internationally a lot and seldom have more than 4 weeks between trips. Not enough time to get a new passport, no matter how I did it. I was hoping that online application would help me. It won’t. I thought online would allow me to apply while still using my old passport, BUT NO. The old passport gets killed the minute you apply for a new one. Why can’t they kill the old one the minute they have finished the new one and put it in the mail to you? Why? President Biden are you reading this? Secretary Blinken, are you reading this?? Sucks. 

  14. @DoninATL
    Quit traveling internationally so much. Soon you won’t be worrying about your expired passport. You will be worrying about your expired health from all the stress and jet lag.

  15. netllama, did you really just tell someone to know what they were talking about while also giving out completely false information? Seriously, you were that rude and cocky about something while also being totally wrong? I’m impressed!

    Extra large passport are still available. Adding pages to a passport was discontinued, but when you get a passport you can choose the regular size (28 pages) or the extra large size (52 pages).

    Be better, cupcake!

  16. Because of your earlier post on this subject, I applied on line on August 16. I paid for expedited processing and yesterdays received an email saying that my new passport was being mailed to me.

    4 weeks! Maybe the government is finally joining the modern era!

  17. A point of note, the State Department is finally moving on this because of a Presidential Executive Order (Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government) from December 2021 that ordered an online passport renewal portal to be created, along with a number of other initiatives intended to digitize and simplify people’s interactions with the government.

    I participated in an online trial for applying for passport cards in 2012. I cannot believe it has taken this long for it to become a full reality.

  18. If you want stuff like this to get implemented faster, contact your senators and/or representative in congress, and tell them to fund government IT comparable to the private sector, and pay engineers in the government comparable to the private sector.

  19. A small step in the right direction, but they need an actual 3 day process to correct their mistakes. My son’s girlfriend received her new passport 8 weeks before her term abroad, but they mispelled her name. Passport office said that they would expedite the replacement, but 6 weeks in no corrected passport and they said it was because she didn’t pay to expedite correcting their mistake! Took intervention from her Congressman and 25 phone calls to get an in person appt to get the passport.

  20. Thank you for this important information.
    Can you tell me if my wife will apply to renewal her passport on line if she is out of USA(Colombia) and will be here for more than 3 Months?

  21. Times are changing….in a recent trip to Argentina and Uruguay, my passport was never stamped, only a foto and thumbprint taken. When I returned to the US in Miami, using Global Entry, I had my foto taken, and then just walked through….never received a paper from the kiosk, and the agent didn´t want to see my passport…told me to keep moving.

    So, hopefully in the next 4 years when I have to renew my passport, it will be as easy as it is renewing a driver´s license in many states today…go on-line, enter in the necessary information and in less than a week, the new license arrives in your mailbox..

    Perhaps in the future, the passport booklets will be replaced with passport cards, since stamping passport booklets is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

    Sidenote: I´d like to see an honest budget report on what is done with the exorbitant passport fees being paid by millions of people each year. What is the average salary of those who process passport applications, or their supervisors?

  22. @C_M Extra-large passport was discontinued when I renewed 3 yrs ago and I travel all the time. As of late 2021, the extra page option is back (for fee).
    (What makes you assume people are not planning ahead!?)

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