Skift Take

With faster passport renewals, Americans will have an easier time traveling internationally.

In December 2023, the State Department said it had brought passport processing times to their pre-pandemic levels of six to eight weeks. Two moves in the past two weeks could help bring them down further.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said his office is establishing a half-dozen new passport agencies to meet the demand. This will bring the State Department’s total network to 35 and over 7,400 public passport acceptance facilities nationwide.

And a beta test launched last week allows eligible citizens to renew their passports online. This digital fast-track is available to Americans over 25 living in the U.S., with a limited number of slots opening daily at 1 p.m. Eastern.

“Once fully launched, we expect five million customers to be eligible to renew their passports online each year,” a spokesperson told Skift. “We estimate this would represent two-thirds of annual passport renewals and roughly 25% of all passport applications.”

The new agencies and online renewal option come as passport demand soars to new heights. In fiscal year 2023, the State Department issued a record-breaking 24 million passport books and cards. Today, nearly half of all Americans have passports.

The State Department began beta testing the online renewal option last week and plans to continue for “several months.”

During the pandemic, the State Department had experienced long passport processing times – in 2021, the average wait time reached 18 weeks.

Passports to Feed American Hunger for International Travel

The number of destinations American passport holders can enter visa-free has weakened in the past year. The U.S. passport’s power has fallen from sixth to eighth place, according to the Henley Passport Index, a global immigration consultancy firm.

Americans continue to travel abroad in high numbers this year. Over 9 million citizens departed from the U.S. in March 2024, up 15.4% from last year, according to the International Trade Administration’s latest data.

American hunger for travel, driven in part by a strong dollar, is expected to be a driving force in Europe’s tourism recovery this year, according to UN Tourism.

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Tags: passports, tourism

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