Once again, qualifying U. S. citizens can renew their passports online.
It will save the time and stress of standing in line at a regional passport agency office to renew, but it will still take the same 6-8 weeks to process and get your new travel documents.
The State Dept. has announced a program in late September for online applications.
The pilot program is taking applications on “a first come, first serve basis” until a cap is reached, although there was no announcement what that cap number might be.
S it’s possible that an application will not make it into the program if the limit is reached.
Two similar brief test programs earlier in 2022 – one for federal government employees and another for the public – proved both popular and successful, and the online option is being expanded to the general public in early 2023.
Currently, to renew your passport, you must mail your most recent passport plus supporting documents, or make an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency. The online renewal is a third option.
Simply – if your passport is due to expire within the next 12 months, take advantage now of the online renewal, before the mail-in slots are filled, or wait until next year for the online option.
The new online program begins in early 2023, so until then, you’ll still have to renew the old fashioned way – by snail mail or in person.
The new option is designed to eliminate piles of paperwork, reduce long lines at passport offices, and streamline the procedure following two years of pandemic-related backlogs when State Department processing offices were closed.
According to the New York Times, that backlog is two million people waiting for new documents.
The online renewal option is the result of a December 2021 executive order from President Joe Biden, who demanded the federal government “design and deliver services in a manner that people of all abilities can navigate.”
What you can renew online
You can renew both passport books and passport cards online, but only the document you have.
You can not switch from book to card, or the other way around, or add one if you have only the other one.
And, you can not apply online for a first-time passport – that still must be done in person.
You can not change your name or gender online – that still must be done by mail or in person.
Who can renew online
These are the main requirements to use the online renewal process:
- Your most recent passport is/was valid for 10 years.
- That passport was issued between nine and 15 years ago.
- You are 25 years old or older.
- You’re not changing your name, gender, date of birth or place of birth.
- You are not traveling out of the country for at least six weeks from when you submit your application.
- You’re applying for a regular tourist passport.
- You live in the U.S.
Who can not use the online passport option
- Applicants under the age of 16.
- Those applying for a first-time passport.
- Those renewing/replacing a document that was lost or stolen.
- Those updating an expired passport that was issued more than 15 years ago.
In those cases, applicants must appear in person at a passport acceptance facility like a U.S. Post Office.
How to participate in the online program
Those who meet the State Department requirements need to open a MyTravelGov account. It’s a new feature where people can apply for official travel-related documents such as an electronic Consular Report of Birth Abroad, and renew their U.S. passport.
Applicants can log in and see an option to “Renew Passport”. Allow at least four hours after registration for your new account to activate..
Upload a digital photo that meets State Department requirements, and pay using a credit or debit card or Automated Clearing House.
The pilot program is taking applications on “a first come, first serve basis” so it’s possible that an application will not make it into the program if the limit is hit.
How long is a U.S. passport good for? Here’s what you need to know.
Online renewal is not faster
The processing time will be the same as renewing by mail.
According to USA Today, in August 2022, processing time took between eight and 11 weeks, and even extra-cost expedited processing took 5-7 weeks.
The advantage is it takes you less time and less stress to renew, since you don’t have to make an appointment and stand on line, or send sensitive documents in the mail.
Will my passport still be valid if I apply?
No. As soon as you submit your online application, your most recent passport immediately becomes invalid.
But that is no different from putting your current passport in the mail or handing it over to a human processor at an office.
So plan accordingly.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and guidebook and smartphone app author – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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