About 4 months ago, we reported that the State Department was making plans so renewals of U.S. passports could be done electronically. It was said to be part of President Biden’s executive order regarding Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. The order was intended to bring important government agencies into the digital era while simultaneously decreasing the red tape for several services, including passport renewals.
We all know that planning is one thing, but doing it is another. Apparently, they’re ready to start the latter.
Before new, large undertakings are released to the masses, developers want to test whether or not the new program works and have a final chance to make changes or fixes. That’s what they’re up to now. Their “guinea pigs” will be federal employees and contractors, who are now invited to renew passports online before a larger scale launch of the new system debuts this fall.
The State Dept. is directing federal employees and contractors to pre-register online and create a MyTravelGov account. Once signed up, users will need to wait up to two weeks before they’re able to renew their passports online. No reason for the delay is offered – it doesn’t start until then? Is it to allow for a verification process? Typical SNAFU delays? They don’t say. Just “After you pre-register and create a MyTravelGov account, you will need to wait up to two weeks before you can renew online.”
Anyway, once their “up to 2 weeks” is up, the portal will allow them to renew their passports online. The goal is to save customers time since they won’t’ have to travel to a nearby passport agency or post office to mail their application and supporting documents.
The State Department is asking federal employees and contractors, in exchange for this early access to the system, to provide feedback about their experience. This way the agency can improve and refine the online renewal application before it’s available to the general public.
The online form (which is currently a Google doc. How cute ;-)) initially asks for the person’s email and first/last name. It also outlines several criteria federal employees or contractors must meet before pre-registering for the service:
- My passport is/was valid for 10 years. Your passport can be expired. You cannot renew a passport for a child under age 16.
- My passport was issued over 9 years ago from the date I renew but less than 15 years ago from the date I renew. Your most recent passport should have been issued between 2007 – 2013.
- I am not changing my name, gender, or any other personal information such as date of birth or place of birth.
- I am not traveling internationally in the next 3 weeks from the date I renew online. Note: processing times for the online renewal service will be the same as those for renewal by mail. We will offer both routine (currently 8-11 weeks) and expedited service (currently 5-7 weeks).
- I am applying for a passport book only. You cannot renew a passport card online.
- I am applying for a regular (tourist) passport. You cannot renew a special issuance (diplomatic, official) passport.
- I live in the United States (either state or territory). You cannot be stationed at an overseas post in a foreign country or have an APO/FPO address.
- I have my passport with me, and it’s not damaged or mutilated.
- I can pay for my passport using a credit/debit card or an ACH (Automated Clearing House) payment transferring funds from my bank account.
- I can upload a digital passport photo (.JPEG file format).
Once they confirm “yes” to all of the above statements, they also have to confirm the federal agency or office they work out of.
The pilot program will run through June 30. The actual program is planned to be launched to the general public later in 2022.
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