The U.S. President signed an executive order on Monday directing the State Department to make passports renewable online.
Because the technology required for such a transition is likely to take months to deploy, travelers are encouraged to continue renewing their passports in the usual manner for the time being.
“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. This new online process will be done with safety and security,” said a White House official.
The exact date when tourists will be able to complete the process online is still unknown. The procedure will begin on a “limited basis this month,” but it will take time to significantly scale.
Most citizens find renewing a passport by mail or in-person to be a headache. However, the pandemic brought the issue to a whole new level.
The shutdown of a State Department office resulted in significant backlogs. The processing and mailing of passport applications would take up to 18 weeks, and citizens would be charged up to $60 in additional fees.
Standard renewals take now 8 to 11 weeks to process, while expedited renewals take 5 to 7 weeks.
During the summer, the office advised citizens to apply for passports or renew them at least six months before traveling abroad.
Processes appear to have improved since then, but the order’s implementation promises to be a game-changer.
The order also aims to improve customer service across 17 federal agencies, with many of them including technological improvements.
Other promised improvements in the travel sector include shorter security and check-in queues at airports, as well as expanded channels of communication to make it easier for travelers with time-sensitive questions to communicate with the TSA.
In that regard, the order states that the “government must be held accountable for designing and delivering services with a focus on the actual experience of the people whom it is meant to serve.”
“We must use technology to modernize government and implement services that are simple to use, accessible, equitable, protective, transparent, and responsive for all people of the United States.”