Renewing a US passport is an archaic process. You have to obtain a printed photo, write a check or money order, and then package up all your forms and old passport and go to the post office to mail it—and then cross your fingers that your important and sensitive documents don’t get stolen or lost in the post.
After all that, you then have to wait for the State Department to receive your application (which can take up to two weeks depending on where you mail your package from) before the estimated 8-11 week wait time to process and approve your new passport begins.
Fortunately, the US government is embracing technology and will soon be allowing travelers to renew their passports online. A spokesperson for the State Department told SmarterTravel, “Our new online system will save Americans money, time, and effort, making it much more convenient to renew their passports.”
A recent pilot program allowed 25,000 people to trial the online passport renewal process on a first-come, first-serve basis. This program closed to new participants in mid-August, but is expected to reopen to more applicants in September, before becoming available to all Americans next year.
“We will post updates on our website in the coming weeks regarding the details of those further pilot opportunities,” said the State Department. “We anticipate a full public launch of the online passport renewal option early next year.”
Will It Be Faster to Renew Your Passport Online?
Your passport will be subject to the same processing time as mailed in applications. However, when you mail in your passport renewal, you have to wait for the package to make its way to the State Department before the processing time frame begins. With online renewal, the State Department will receive your renewal application instantly.
You’ll also be able to save time by taking your own digital photo rather than going to the store and having one printed.
Although you won’t have to mail in your old passport (like you do currently when you renew), your most recent passport will be immediately invalidated when you submit your online renewal application, and you will no longer be able to use it for travel.
Who Can Renew a Passport Online?
You can renew your passport online if you meet the following conditions:
- Renewing a passport that was valid for 10 years
- Age 25 or older
- Most recent passport was issued over 9 years ago but less than 15 years ago
- People who live in the United States
When You Can’t Renew Your Passport Online
You will not be eligible to renew your passport online if:
- You’re changing your name, gender, date of birth, or place of birth
- You’re traveling internationally within five weeks from the date of the application
- You do not have your old passport in your possession (because it was lost or stolen)
- You’re under 25 years old
- Your passport was issued more than 15 years ago
How Much Will Online Passport Renewal Cost?
Online passport renewals will cost the same as standard passport renewals. However, unlike with mailed applications, you can pay any fees with a credit card (and get those credit card miles for travel). You’ll also save money on postage (which can be significant if you want tracking to ensure your package arrived safely).
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