You Will Soon, Finally, Be Able to Renew Your Passport Online
Passport application, meet internet
Passport renewal has become a bit of a sore subject as wait times have hovered pretty consistently between 12 and 18 weeks, even for expedited applications, for the entirety of the pandemic. In October, it was reported that routine processing was down to just 11 weeks, then a cause for celebration, though still a departure from the standard 6- to 8-week wait time from pre-pandemic days.
That said, there may be a more legitimate reason to celebrate on the horizon. This week, President Biden signed into effect a new executive order — Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government — which will utilize 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.” In other words: passport applications are going digital, baby.
Per a report from Forbes, “USA.gov, the official site for federal government services, is being revamped as a centralized one-stop shop and ‘digital federal front door’ to improve access to the most sought-after government services and programs. Altogether, the executive order covers 35 ‘high-impact service providers‘ across 17 federal agencies, which will make it easier access to social security benefits, file taxes and get through airport security.”
As it pertains to passport applications, it is the President’s vision that the new online passport renewal experience will not require any physical documents — applications nor paper checks — to be put in the mail, as has long been custom. And, frankly, hallelujah … because is the 21st century and I can think of nothing more archaic than going to the post office to mail a check (sorry, mom).
Further, it is Biden’s hope that by moving the application process online, it will reduce the 9 billion hours of “paperwork burden imposed by executive departments and agencies on the public” annually. I’m no climate expert, but that strikes me as a lot of paper, so I think that’s an unintended consequence of this particular order that we can all feel good about, too.
As it stands now, passports are only able to be renewed by mail or in person, though the more than 15 million Americans who have applied for a passport this year have made in-person appointments all but impossible to get. According senior advisor to Biden Neera Tanden, the online passport portal will open on a limited basis this month, but will take some time before becoming universally available. As someone who’s passport expires in exactly 113 days of this writing, I hope “some time” means somewhere in the vicinity of 57 days.
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