State Department launches limited online passport renewal

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The department previously piloted online renewals in 2022.

The State Department opened a public beta of an online passport renewal tool Wednesday, a step in a years-long effort to give the public a way to renew their passports online instead of via mail.

The department will be taking a limited number of online applications daily so that it can track and fix any problems, but it expects to increase intake over time. This testing phase will “continue over the course of the coming months,” according to a State Department spokesperson.

Those interested can look for the system to open in the afternoon, eastern time, before closing once the department reaches its threshold.

The gradual launch is “a standard and widely-used practice across industry and government for launching a new product — and allowing the public to participate is important to monitor how the site is performing at scale in a real-world environment,” the spokesperson said, although it also means that “not everyone who wishes to apply online will be able to do so on the day of their choice during this beta.”

Once the online option is fully open, the department says that it expects five million to be eligible to renew online annually — or about 25% of all passport applications and two thirds of annual passport renewals.

To submit an application, individuals will have to make an account on, the government’s single sign-on service, backed by the General Services Administration. 

Individuals will also still be able to submit their application via mail if they prefer, and those that renew online won’t see any faster timelines than those that go for the mail option, according to the department.

Currently, routine processing times are six to eight weeks — down from longer wait times that rose after the pandemic. 

Anyone needing expedited processing will have to mail their application. There are also other eligibility requirements for the online option, including that the applicant isn’t changing their name, gender, birthday or place of birth. 

The testing follows a 2022 pilot for online passport applications, which got over 500,000 applications before pausing early last year.

The department previously said that the online system would be public again by early 2023 and then by the end of last year

“Over the last year, our team has worked to improve [online passport renewal] — including conducting several rounds of closed, internal testing to refine the [online passport renewal] customer experience before starting the public beta phase,” a spokesperson told Nextgov/FCW when asked about the delay. 

The online passport application was a to-do item included in a 2021 executive order on customer experience, and the White House included an ask for $163 million to revamp passport services and move them online in its 2024 budget request.

“It is important to get this right,” the spokesperson said, adding that the goal is to make the program as effective and available to as many Americans as possible.