Here’s How The U.S. State Department’s New Passport Renewal System Works

The U.S. State Department has kept its new passport renewal system under wraps – until now. 

The agency quietly launched the new public beta test on June 12, which will permit U.S. citizens to renew their passports without having to visit an office or physically mail documents.

The department unsuccessfully tried to roll out the new system in 2022 after an attempt to rectify the intense renewal backlog, which stretched back up to 13 weeks. Under the new system, a limited number of American citizens will be eligible to start their renewal application at 1 p.m. every day. The application will close after the daily limit, which hasn’t been determined yet, is reached. Whenever the number is established, the department plans to increase the capacity on a daily basis. However, the number of accepted applications will continue to be limited over time in efforts to monitor the new system. 

According to NBC News, the new system is embedded in President Joe Biden’s 2023 budget, which approved $163 million to redesign passport delivery services so that the public can access important online services. Funds were also allocated for customer-facing upgrades to the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and the Social Security Administration. 

There will be new requirements for passport renewal. With the upgrades, applicants must be over 25 years old, have a passport issued between 2009 and 2015, have no plans to change any demographic information and not travel internationally for a minimum of 8 weeks from the date of renewal submission.

While travelers will no longer have to go into the office for the process, the processing time will remain approximately six to eight weeks. Expedited services, which have a two- to three-week turnaround time and require an extra cost, won’t be eligible for online applications. 

There is hope that the new system will continue to make the processing time easier so that things don’t get backed up again. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, processing time decreased dramatically and failed to recover with travel picking up and reduced agency staffing, but the department says it has recovered to normal service.

Back in 2021, the processing time for a passport reached 18 weeks and then dropped to between 10 and 13 weeks during summer 2023. As of November 2023, the wait time went down to between seven and ten weeks. The first sight of normalcy came by December 2023, making it the first in the pre-pandemic era since March 2020. 

To make things even easier, the State Department approved a 12% increase in staffing between December 2022 and January 2024.

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