This is the moment Americans have been patiently waiting for: starting in 2023, all U.S. citizens will be eligible to renew their passports online for international travel. The U.S. Government has made the decision after a successful pilot program launched this year proved demand for a digital, smarter, and faster application process is high.
Soon enough, the long wait times we have seen this year for passport renewals, both due to a backlog in demand and staffing shortages, could be a thing of the past, as the digitization of the procedure eliminates the need for mail postage and/or wait until they’re given an appointment date at passport agencies.
Sounds like a win-win situation for both sides, huh? Here is everything we know so far about the future online application:
2022’s Pilot Programs Were A Resounding Success
Earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of Americans reported issues obtaining new passports amid a surge in travel demand. As Covid restrictions dropped and countries reopened for travel, long delays affected those who were either issuing their first-ever passport or simply renewing an existing one.
This is an issue impacting the travel plans of not only Americans but also some Canadians, who booked fake flights so authorities would give them priority in the line. Even then, Canada showed no signs of easing application or moving it online. Its closest neighbor, on the other hand, ran several small pilot programs throughout 2022.
The first one took place in February, applying only to contractors and Federal employees. Later in August, at the peak of the chaotic summer, the privilege was granted to 25,000 other citizens, indicating a major roll-out was looming. Lastly, September 17 saw a final pilot program, extended to those who had created a MyTravelGov account before the launch date.
All three apparently ran smoothly, and no safety concerns were reported, leading the U.S. Department of State to make it official at last: as soon as 2023, all Americans, whether they’re working for the Government or are regular citizens, will be able to request passports via the internet, from the comfort of their own homes.
Is The Process Going To Be Quicker And Cheaper Than It Was?
As stated in The New York Times, who first broke the news, online passport renewal is a direct result of the Executive Order signed by President Biden back in December 2021. At the time, it opened the path for the Department of State to modernize the document’s issuance, setting the precedent for the three pilot programs that proved so successful.
Once the Executive Order is fully enforced, federals expect the time of passport renewals to be reduced by 1-7 weeks, depending, of course, on the level of demand at any given time. Currently, Americans must wait an average of 8-11 weeks when applying by mail, or as of this year, much more than that, even when requesting expedited service.
The NY Times stated a number of renewals have taken up to 18 weeks to process, or roughly 4 months, seriously disrupting the travel plans of those who had waited until this year to get their hands on a shiny new passport. So far, the U.S. Government has not given a precise launch date for the online system, though it should be operational by ‘early 2023’.
As for fees, we expect both the application fee and the ‘acceptance’ fee to be maintained for passports. Currently, a passport book and card costs $160, while the acceptance fee concerning generally first-time applicants is a further $35. On the other hand, you’ll be able to save some bucks on postage and/or travel to the nearest passport office once digitization is complete.
The Future Of International Travel Is Digital
More and more, international travel is becoming more digital-friendly. Recently, we reported border officers are being replaced in a number of destinations by electronic gates for faster immigration, including in Europe, where Americans can already scan their way into countries like the U.K., parts of France, and Italy.
Being allowed to renew passports online seems like the next natural step, especially at a time when countries are eagerly looking to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy relating to travel. Be that as it may, flying abroad comes with its own set of rules that must be respected – otherwise, it could cost your entire vacation.
If you’re flying internationally anytime soon, make sure you check your passport validity date so that you’re not prevented from boarding. Whenever the expiry date is approaching, or you have lost or damaged your document, request a new one as soon as possible, even when you’re not planning on traveling in the near future.
This will help you to stay on the safe side always.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com