Forget the lines: You may be able to renew your passport online
Renewing your U.S. passport could become much less stressful for some.
Qualifying U.S. citizens can renew their passports online which started on Friday, according to an announcement by the State Department.
"We are committed to the President’s Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government," a spokesperson for the State Department told USA TODAY in an email. "Delivering on this promise, we are working toward providing a secure online passport renewal option. Our new online system will save Americans money, time, and effort, making it much more convenient to renew their passports."
Applications will be accepted until a cap is reached, but the spokesperson did not say what the amount is. On Saturday, the agency posted an update saying they reached their monthly goal and that the program will reopen in October.
To renew your passport, you need to mail in your most recent passport plus documents with sensitive information like your Social Security number or make an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency.
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The State Department ran a similar pilot program in August for 25,000 members of the public – it took just 10 days for the limit to be hit. In February, the department tested the system for federal government employees and contractors.
"If this program is successful, it will alleviate a lot of headaches to renewing your passport – making it more time efficient and easy to do online avoids a lot of headaches when sending your passport in and then not knowing when it arrives (at) the passport office," April Cheng, travel expert for TravelChic World, said. "There have been cases where passports have been lost in the mail and/or stolen."
A full public launch of online passport renewal is expected in early 2023, according to the spokesperson.
What can I renew?
You will have the option to renew both passport books and cards, but not if you have one and only want the other – like if you have a passport book but just want to apply for a passport card.
How do I qualify for online renewal?
There are a few requirements to meet if you're hoping to try out the online renewal process, including these key ones:
Your most recent passport is/was valid for 10 years.
That passport was issued between nine and 15 years ago.
You are 25 years old or older.
You're not changing your name, gender, date of birth, or place of birth.
You are not traveling out of the country for at least six weeks from when you submit your application.
You're applying for a regular tourist passport.
You live in the U.S.
How do I participate in the program?
Those who meet the requirements of the State Department can make a MyTravelGov account, a new feature from the State Department where people can apply for an electronic Consular Report of Birth Abroad and renew their U.S. passport. Applicants will receive an email to activate your account.
Applicants can log in and see an option to "Renew Passport" after four hours past registration.
To complete the online renewal, applicants will also need to be able to upload a digital photo and pay using a credit or debit card or Automated Clearing House.
The pilot program is taking applications on "a first-come, first-served basis" so it's possible that an application will not make it into the program if the limit is hit.
If you registered your MyTravelGov account after 12:24 p.m. EDT on Saturday, you'll need to wait to submit your application until the program reopens next month. Those who did before can still submit if they meet the requirements.
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Is online renewal faster?
No, the processing time will be the same as renewing by mail. In August, the processing time for a passport took between eight and 11 weeks, with five to seven weeks for expedited processing.
"In my opinion, even if the processing time is almost the same as the traditional way, it is better for the American travelers," Kendry Dupree, travel agent for Allure Vacations, said. "One of the benefits of the online Passport Renewal Pilot Program is that it reduces the hassle of traditional renewal of passports."
She added that the traditional method "wastes a lot of time."
Will my passport still be valid if I apply?
As soon as you submit your online application, your most recent passport will immediately become invalid.
Should I try the program if I'm traveling soon?
Both Cheng and Dupree advised against trying to renew your passport online if you're planning on leaving the country soon. Dupree warns that for some, "it might disrupt their traveling plans."
Cheng said there could be a lag time.
"It is a pilot program, so there could be hurdles on how fast they can get the passport back to you," Cheng said. "I would definitely try this new pilot program if you’re not planning on traveling internationally in the next six months to prepare for backlog or potential hurdles with a new program."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What to know about renewing your U.S. passport online