Passport renewal now quicker and easier

The State Department is testing a new system that has shortened the time required to get a passport - Photo by Spencer Davis on UnSplash

But this is only a test, the State Department warns

For those of you who are thinking about traveling abroad, but have been worried about getting your passport renewed on time, it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief. The U.S. passport office is finally starting to recover from the pandemic. What has gone from months is now down to, according to some reports, less than two weeks.

To get out of its jam, the State Department has introduced online renewals. It started out as a test to see if it could handle everything, but it appears to have taken up semi-permanent residency as an option.

Yes, semi-permanent. Travel writer Gary Leff has been monitoring the situation and says it’s not clear whether this will remain an option, though clearly the intention is to make it one eventually.

However, this change is not for new passports, only renewals. Leff says that it’s also limited to people aged 16 or over.  

“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,’” Leff said.

“They quote six to eight weeks processing for online renewals, and do not offer expedited service for them.”

The ifs

In reviewing the State Department’s new system, ConsumerAffairs found some other caveats that you’ll need to consider. According to the agency:

  • You may not be able to start your application on the day of your choice. The system will open for a limited midday eastern time window each day, and will close once we reach our limit for the day. 

  • If you are unable to start your application, try again on another day. If you do not want to wait or do not qualify to renew online, you may also renew by mail now. 

  • You are not traveling internationally for at least eight weeks from the date you will submit your application. The department will only offer routine service during this limited release, and the time it takes to get a passport will be the same as renewing by mail. 

One last thing. While Leff was able to get his daughter’s passport renewed in a couple of weeks, he may have been just plain lucky. The State Department made it clear that its comfort zone is more like eight weeks. And because of that, says “If you are traveling internationally in less than eight weeks, you cannot renew online because we are only offering routine service.”

If you need your passport in less than three weeks, you should make an appointment to renew in person at a passport agency or center.

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