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Americans Can Soon Renew Passports Online: Learn How It Works

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Renewing a US passport has always been annoying, but it got even harder during the COVID-19 pandemic when wait times stretched as long as 18 weeks. The US Department of State said it has reduced its backlog of about 2 million applications, but the agency still estimates eight to 11 weeks to renew a passport, not including mailing times.

A new program to renew passports online may shorten that waiting time and could certainly make the process much easier. Originating from an executive order by President Joe Biden in December 2021, a pilot program for online passport renewals was launched by the Department of State on Aug. 2, with 25,000 open slots that were filled by Aug. 12.

A screenshot of the passport online renewal page explaining that the August pilot program has ended

MyTravelGov/Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

The agency plans to accept another 25,000 applications in September, and then roll out the program more widely in 2023. While it’s unclear yet how much time the online process will save, it will eliminate mailing time and some of the more onerous requirements of passport renewal.

To join the pilot program for online passport renewal in September, you’ll need to be ready with a MyTravelGov account and be aware of all the program restrictions. Below, I’ll explain who can apply for a passport renewal online and how the system works.

For more travel tips, learn the most essential items for traveling overseas and money-saving advice from The Points Guy.

How does the new online passport renewal program work?

Normally, you’d handle a passport renewal by mail. You’d package up your old physical passport, fill out form DS-82, include a new physical passport photo, calculate your passport renewal fees, add a check or money order, mail off your application and wait a couple months. 

For speedier processing, a $60 fee for expedited service currently reduces the waiting time to five to seven weeks, and the Department of State has special processes for extremely urgent or emergency travel.

With the new passport renewal system, you can complete the request online, upload a digital photo, pay electronically… and then still wait a couple months. Maybe. 

The Department of State is not yet promising expedited renewal for online passports — it’s still sticking with its eight-to-11 week estimate, regardless of how you apply. However, early applicants for online passport renewals have reported quick turnaround times — some as fast as two weeks or even less.

Despite the greater ease of processing online applications, passport fees will remain the same: $130 for a passport book, $30 for a passport card and $160 for both. Online applicants can also pay the additional $60 fee for expedited service.

Who can renew their passports online?

During the testing phase of the online passport renewal system, the Department of State has put some strict regulations on who can apply. The two main requirements are:

  • Passport renewal applicants must be 25 or older, with an existing physical passport in good condition that has been valid or was valid for 10 years
  • That required passport must have been issued at least nine years ago, but not longer than 15 years ago (between 2007 and 2013)

Those are the main qualifications for online passport renewal, but the Department of State includes additional caveats:

  • You cannot change your name, gender, or date or place of birth
  • You can only renew online for tourist passports, not special issuance
  • You must live in the US
  • You must be able to pay your passport fees by credit card, debit card or electronic ACH bank transfer
  • You must be able to upload an acceptable digital passport photo
  • You should be aware that your existing passport will immediately become invalid

If I am eligible, how do I renew my passport online?

First you’ll need to create a MyTravelGov account on the Department of State’s website, if you don’t already have one. Don’t worry — the process is much quicker and faster than registering for an IRS account or buying savings bonds online.

Visit the MyTravelGov portal and click the big blue button that says Click here for your MyTravelGov account log-in. That will take you to the sign-in page, but if you don’t already have an account, click SIgn up at the bottom.

A quick registration form asks for your legal name, email address and a strong password. That’s all that’s required, although you can also include your mailing address, which the Department of State will need eventually. After completing the CAPTCHA, click the blue Create Account button.

MyTravelGov will then send you a verification email to the email address you included in the sign-up form. Click the verification link, and MyTravelGov will request you answer three security questions — I suggest recording your answers somewhere you won’t lose them.

After completing the security questions, MyTravelGov will then send a one-time code to your email that allows you to log in to your account. If you need assistance managing the MyTravelGov registration, a helpful Department of State tutorial video can walk you through the entire process:

Once you’ve created your MyTravelGov account, a message on the home page will provide you with an option to “Renew Passport,” after the pilot program is launched again in September. (The site currently only displays the Consular Report of Birth Abroad application.)

A screenshot of the MyTravelGov website showing the link to renew passports online

After the next pilot program is launched, the “Renew Passport” button will appear on your MyTravelGov home page.


MyTravelGov/Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

What’s next for the online passport renewal program?

The next pilot program for online passport renewals will launch in early September, though the date is TBD. If you’re anxious to renew your passport online, I recommend checking the site each day at the start of September.

The Department of State is using these pilot programs to test the stability and performance of its online passport renewal system. If all goes well, the department will open up the system to all Americans sometime in 2023. We’ll continue to update this article as the new pilot program launches and online passport renewal becomes available to more Americans.

For more travel advice, learn if flight insurance is worth the cost and how to take better vacation photos.


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