To complete the online renewal submission, travelers must also upload a digital passport photo and pay the fees with a credit card, debit card, or bank transfer (the typical cost for an adult to renew a passport book is $130). Once the application is submitted, travelers’ current passports will be immediately invalidated and unusable for international trips.
For those who do make it into the test program this October, the processing time should be similar to the seven to 10 weeks for a mailed-in application. An expedited service will also be offered for an extra fee (usually $60), which typically shortens the processing time to four to six weeks. “Still, you’ll save some time applying online because mailing an application can add up to two weeks to this timeframe,” says NerdWallet’s Sara Rathner.
If you are traveling internationally in the next six weeks, or simply don’t want to wait until October, you can still renew your passport by mail, or in certain circumstances, in person. “If you need your passport for an upcoming trip, don’t wait until online applications open up again,” Rathner says.
The hope is the new system will save money, time, and effort, making the U.S. passport renewal process easier than ever. During the pilot, the State Department is testing the functionality of the system to ensure it runs as intended. Officials will continue posting updates on its site regarding when the program will fully open to the public, but the current target is early 2023.
The new online passport system is part of an executive order from President Biden focused on transforming federal customer experience, and the Secretary of State has been working on a new online system “that does not require any physical documents to be mailed.”
Many in the travel industry see the online renewal system as a step in the right direction, especially since the current antiquated mail-in protocol has been a source of anxiety for so many Americans. Currently, the passport renewal process requires filling out an application called DS-82, providing a passport-sized photo, and calculating fees, plus tossing the current passport and potentially other identification papers in the mail. “It’s scary to mail in your [old] passport, marriage certificate, and other documents and hope you’ll get them back,” Rathner says.