If you’re one of the millions of Americans who need to renew their passport, there’s good news on the horizon. There is, however, one small caveat.
Recognizing that millions of people needlessly lose time each year because the federal government still relies on paper-based systems and processes rather than leveraging technology, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing 17 federal agencies to streamline their processes. One of those government services is renewing passports.
“Americans will be able to renew their passports securely online, saving time from having to wait and the effort and cost required to print, go to a post office, and use a paper check,” according to the White House. “This new online process will be done with safety and security.”
Another benefit is that ultimately, passengers will see shorter security and check-in lines at airports due to the eventual increased use of technology to streamline these processes. Advances will include new security machines and computers with advanced screening features.
The Presidential Order
“The federal government must design and deliver services in a manner that people of all abilities can navigate. We must use technology to modernize the government and implement services that are simple to use, accessible, equitable, protective, transparent, and responsive for all people of the United States,” Biden’s executive order explains. “This lost time operates as a kind of tax — a ‘time tax’ — and it imposes a serious burden on our people as they interact with the government. Improving government services should also make our government more efficient and effective overall.”
Put simply, President Biden explained that “When a disaster survivor, single parent, immigrant, small business owner, or veteran waits months for the government to process benefits to which they are entitled, that lost time is a significant cost not only for that individual but in the aggregate, for our nation as a whole.”
In addition to allowing U.S. citizens to renew passports online, and using advanced screening technology at airports to shorten security and check-in lines, the executive order calls for using technology to enable retirees to claim Social Security benefits online, expanding electronic filing options for federal taxes, and streamlining the process for applying for disaster assistance.
A Lagging System
News that passports will eventually be able to be renewed online comes as the paper-based process’ shortcomings have been in the spotlight.
When U.S. passport offices closed for months in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the system was overwhelmed with millions of passport requests in-process, causing considerable delays — if not angst — for travelers.
Then, this past October, the U.S. State Department announced that wait times had gone down to a range of 8 to 11 weeks for routine processing. Processing time for expedited service, which costs an extra $60, had dropped to five to seven weeks, the State Department explained at the time.
Final Thoughts: Don’t Delay
If you’ve been wondering about that important caveat mentioned earlier, here it is: Don’t count on online passport renewal being offered anytime soon.
Indeed, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the order could take between 6 to 12 months to take effect.
So, what should you do in the meantime?
Peter Vlitas, Internova Travel Group’s senior vice president of airline relations, says in a Washington Post article that for now, he still advises travelers to submit passport renewals at least 4 to 5 months before an international trip. He also advises travelers to be sure their passport is valid for at least 6 months before embarking on international travel.
For the latest, be sure to stay tuned to our travel news coverage.