You Used to Be Able to Renew Your Passport Online. Here’s Why You Can’t Anymore

Americans have been waiting a long time to be able to renew their passports online. It looks like they’ll have to wait a little longer.

A U.S. passport atop a black computer keyboard

The U.S. government had a beta test of an online passport renewal system, but it’s been paused indefinitely.

Photo by Evgenia Parajanian/Shutterstock

For Americans keen on traveling internationally, renewing a passport is a regular part of life—the booklets expire every 10 years or whenever they run out of the appropriate number of blank pages, whichever comes sooner.

And though we live in an age where technology has transformed nearly every facet of our daily lives, passports aren’t one of them. Currently, Americans cannot renew their passports online—the only way to do so is by mail.

In December 2021, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at streamlining the passport renewal process. A fact sheet about the order stated: “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.”

Then in August 2022, the State Department launched a pilot program that allowed volunteers who met certain criteria (were at least 25 years old, were renewing a passport issued between 2007 and 2013, and were renewing a passport that was set to expire within one year or already had expired) to test an online passport renewal portal. All told, more than 500,000 people participated in the program before it was put on pause on March 8, 2023, though some complained that the system was buggy.

According to a statement on the State Department’s website, the online renewal service trial was paused in order to “introduce improvements based on customer feedback.” The website also says, “We look forward to launching the enhanced application in a full, nationwide release.”

However, no permanent roll-out date has been announced yet, even though roughly 200 members of Congress signed a letter sent to the Bureau of Consular Affairs in May 2023 asking for more transparency on the matter.

Perhaps now that general passport wait times are back to prepandemic levels, with standard passport applications being processed within six to eight weeks and expedited passport applications two to three weeks, the State Department will be able to devote more energy to finally getting online passport renewals up and running. Until then, those who need to renew their passports must still send an application, two passport photos, their most recent passport, and a check for $130 (or $100 for people under 16) by mail to the National Passport Processing Center.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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