US passport office updates procedures to speed up waiting times 

The U.S. passport office is showing signs of recovery from pandemic-related delays, with wait times decreasing from several months to, in some cases, less than two weeks. 

In an effort to streamline the process, the State Department has introduced online renewals, initially as a pilot program, which it is now planning to continue with. 

Travel expert Gary Leff has been following this development and notes that while the long-term availability of online renewals is still uncertain, there is a clear intention to make it a permanent feature eventually. It’s important to note that this service is currently available only for renewals, not for new passport applications, and is restricted to those aged 16 and over.

Leff explains that the system is still in its “beta” phase, meaning there’s a cap on the number of applications accepted each day. 

“The system is open for a limited midday Eastern time window each day and closes once the daily limit is reached,” he says. Processing times for online renewals are quoted at six to eight weeks, with no expedited service offered at this time.

According to the State Department, applicants might not be able to start their application on their preferred day due to daily submission limits. If unable to apply, they should try again on another day. Alternatively, mail-in renewals remain available. 

The new system is intended for those not travelling internationally for at least eight weeks from the submission date, and the processing time is similar to that of mail-in renewals.

The State Department advises that the standard processing time is closer to eight weeks. They also say that if you’re travelling internationally in less than eight weeks, online renewal is not an option due to the lack of expedited service. 

For those needing a passport within three weeks, an in-person appointment at a passport agency or centre is recommended.

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