For Americans with international travel plans on their calendars, getting an up-to-date passport has taken longer than usual as of late. Processing times have stalled significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, with consumers waiting anywhere from eight to 11 weeks to receive an updated passport.
In an effort to reduce the wait time the U.S. State Department released a pilot program earlier this month that would get the ball rolling with online passport renewals. The agency was looking for 25,000 volunteers to test out this new program, and while new spots are set to open in September, the plan is to have the program fully rolled out by 2023.
Currently, the program is expected to process passports in a similar timeline to in-person renewals. Consumers who are testing it out should still expect to wait between eight and 11 weeks for their new passports – or five to seven weeks for expedited processing. However, over time, the program is intended to cut costs, simplify the renewal process, and get travelers new passports faster.
Similarly, the price tag associated with renewing passports online isn’t expected to change from the current fees. Passport renewals cost $130 for the book, $30 for the passport card, and $160 for both.
Eligibility for the pilot program
In the State Department’s call for volunteers, there was a 10-item checklist people needed to go through to ensure that they were eligible for online renewal. This included:
Having a valid passport for 10 years and being at least 25 years old
Current passports can be expired, but they must have been issued less than 15 years ago but at least nine years
Renewers can’t be in the process of changing their name, gender, date of birth, or place of birth
International travel is scheduled at least five weeks out
The application is for a regular tourist passport
Applicants live in the U.S. – not foreign countries, or those with Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office addresses
The current passport is in good condition – not lost, stolen, or destroyed
Payment for the new passport can be made with credit/debit card or automated clearing house payment transferring funds from your account
A digital passport photo can be uploaded to the site
The current passport will be invalidated once the online application is submitted
These guidelines are likely to remain in place when the program reopens to volunteers in September. Consumers interested in renewing their passport online should check the State Department’s website for updates.