Online Passport Renewals Could Relaunch by the End of the Year
A pilot program has closed, but the permanent program is said to be launching in 2023.
Let me start with a tangent. Just last year, I realized I couldn't travel on my passport about 10 days before my planned trip to Rome. I knew that wait times to renew passports were exorbitant, with COVID-19-related issues creating a massive backlog. So, $300 and a flight to Puerto Rico later, I stood in the only office in the US that had availability for same-day passport renewal. Once there, the process was surprisingly seamless. But still, it was a major headache (and a pocket ache).
The State Department recognizes the hassle it can be to renew your passport, even if you aren't flying off the continent to do so. Back in August 2022, the agency launched a pilot program for volunteers to test out an online passport renewal portal that won't require mailing in your application and supporting documents.
The volunteers were accepted on a first-come, first-served basis and over 500,000 went through the program. From February 7 it was scheduled to be closed for a short period of time, with a program launch date of March 2023, according to a memo from the State Department. But after a mounting pile of difficulties, the program did not launch in March.
"On March 8, we paused our limited release of the online renewal service, so that we can introduce improvements based on customer feedback," the State Department website states. "If you have already applied, you can login to your MyTravelGov account and manage your application. We continue to review and process your application."
For those who did not submit applications for online renewal before February 7, they had to go through the traditional renew-by-mail process with the rest of us.
The online portal seems like it could be an ideal alternative to the confusing and tedious renew-by-mail process—which is currently facing a backlog of up to 13 weeks. The online portal might not be faster, but the process is streamlined and offers easier ways to track to the process of your application. The process is so delayed that US lawmakers are proposing legislation to speed up wait times.
When the online application portal was opened, there were 10 requirements in order for you to be eligible to renew online, which are listed on the site. The date for the permanent launch has not been specified; the state department website currently only says "later this year."
As for the timeline, it won't be any faster to renew online than it will be through the mail. Processing times are estimated to be about the same as the traditional process, which used to be between six to eight weeks, and now takes an average of 10 to 13 weeks.
Until the portal is permanently launched, we will have to stick to renewing our passports by mail. Just make sure to find yourself a checkbook and some stamps.
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