First, the bad news. Right now, the turnaround time for a standard passport renewal currently can take up to 11 weeks, according to the State Department website. For $60 more, an expedited renewal application can take up to seven weeks. Passport renewals are moving a lot faster now than last summer, when travelers were waiting up to 18 weeks to renew their passports. But it still takes much longer than it did before the pandemic, when six to eight weeks for standard service was the norm and, if you ponied up for the expedited service, you might get your little blue book in as little as two weeks.
The good news? Within the coming months, passport turnaround time should soon become much, much quicker.
Today in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order, Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, which promises to bring key government agencies into the digital era and decrease the red tape for a broad array of services, including passport renewals.
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.
Among the key improvements: “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,” according to a White House “fact sheet” on the executive order shared prior to its signing.
“Every interaction between the federal government and the public, whether it involves renewing a passport or calling for a status update on a farm loan application, should be seen as an opportunity for the government to save an individual’s time (and thus reduce “time taxes”) and to deliver the level of service that the public expects and deserves,” reads the executive order.
One obvious advantage of renewing your passport online will be bypassing the United States Postal Service, whose controversial new service changes went into effect in October, which potentially slow down as much as 30% of first class mail. The USPS’s new 10-year plan is also expected to mean shorter hours at post offices and higher prices for postage.
So far in 2021, more than 15.4 million Americans were issued passports, according data from the State Department. Currently, renewing a U.S. passport can only be done in person or by mail.
But starting this month, a limited number of Americans will be able to renew their passports online; those numbers will dramatically expand over the coming months, Biden advisor Neera Tanden told USA Today.
“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,” reads the executive order. “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.”