State Dept lets federal employees renew their passports online ahead of public launch

The State Department is inviting federal employees and contractors to renew their passports online before a broader, public launch of this capability this fall.

The agency is directing federal employees and contractors to pre-register online and create a MyTravelGov account. Users will need to wait up to two weeks before they’re able to renew their passports online.

The portal will allow customers to renew their passports online, and will save time by no longer having...

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The State Department is inviting federal employees and contractors to renew their passports online before a broader, public launch of this capability this fall.

The agency is directing federal employees and contractors to pre-register online and create a MyTravelGov account. Users will need to wait up to two weeks before they’re able to renew their passports online.

The portal will allow customers to renew their passports online, and will save time by no longer having 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 early access, to provide feedback about their experience, in order for the agency to improve and refine the online renewal application.

The pilot program, in which federal employees and contractors will be able to test the online passport renewal capability, will run through June 30.

The State Department, on its online form, says it is testing the portal “with a limited audience before launching it to the general public later in 2022.”

A State Department official referred Federal News Network to a statement previously issued last December, in which the agency said it was “committed to providing optimal customer service and is improving its passport services to better meet the needs of U.S. travelers.”

“We are currently piloting an online passport renewal system with government employees and contractors before opening it to the public. This pilot will help us test functionality and ensure everything operates as designed before online passport renewal is launched to the public in fall 2022,” the official said.

President Joe Biden specifically directed the State Department to launch an online passport renewal capability “that does not require any physical documents to be mailed,” as part of the executive order on federal customer experience he signed at the end of last year.

According to several recent agency inspector general reports, this capability will also better position passport services employees to telework and ensure greater continuity of operations.

The department originally expected online passport renewal to launch in March 2016, according to the most recent IG report on the matter.

The online form outlines several criteria federal employees or contractors must meet before pre-registering for the service.

Eligible users must have a passport that is or was valid for 10 years. The department will accept federal workers whose passports have expired, but pilot participants cannot renew a passport for a child under age 16.

Eligible feds must renew a passport that was issued at least nine years ago, but no later than 15 years ago. Passports that meet these criteria should have been issued between 2007 and 2013.

Participants must have their passports with them, and in good condition. The agency states it won’t accept “damaged or mutilated passports.”

Eligible participants must not be traveling internationally three weeks out from the date they renew online.

Processing times for online renewal will remain the same as a renewal by mail. The agency is currently offering routine service within 8 to 11 weeks or expedited service within 5 to 7 weeks.

Pilot participants can only renew a regular tourist passport, not a “special issuance” diplomatic or official passport.

Applicants must live in the United States, and cannot be stationed at an overseas post in a foreign country or have an APO/FPO address.

Eligible participants must pay for their passport renewal using a credit or debit card, or through an Automated Clearing House payment, transferring funds from the user’s bank account.

Participants must also upload a digital passport photo.

The agency directs users to use their personal email addresses — not their government or work email addresses — in order to pre-register.

The State Department will send a confirmation email with more instructions after pre-registering. The department expects it will take a few weeks before users can renew their passports online.

Pre-registration does not obligate federal employees or contractors to renew online, if they decide they’d rather opt for a traditional method of passport renewal.

Pilot participants are unable to change their name, gender, or any other personal information, including a date or place of birth.

Through conventional passport renewal methods, however, individuals can now change the gender listed on their passports.

The State Department in June 2021 announced that it would no longer require passport applicants to submit medical information to change the gender marker on their passports. Individuals can now fill out an application to obtain a full, 10-year passport to select their preferred gender marker.

Those gender markers are currently limited to “M” or “F,”  but the State Department will allow individuals to select a third gender marker option, “X,” starting April 11.

The online passport renewal system is the second pilot to stem from a more than 10-year IT modernization project at the State Department.

The ConsularOne initiative, launched in 2011, seeks to modernize and consolidate the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ 90 IT systems.

The Office of Consular Systems and Technology (CST) in March 2019 launched a “very limited pilot” of a platform that would give U.S. citizens living abroad the ability to complete an online application to report the birth of their children to the State Department for citizenship purposes, according to a recent inspector general report.

The IG office found that passport services employees not having IT systems that could support telework led to a reduction in revenue and output. The department in May 2020 issued about 13,000 passports, a fraction of the 1.8 million passports it sent out for the same month in 2019.

Because an online passport renewal system was unavailable, passport services staff 2020 returned to the office in the summer of 2020, sooner than other agency employees, in order to deal with a backlog of passport applications.

The State Department experienced a second major backlog of passport applications last summer.

Under a backlog of as many as 2 million applications, the agency was taking up to 18 weeks to process routine passport applications, and up to 12 weeks to handle expedited applications. Under both tracks, the department allowed up to six weeks for mailing.

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