State Dept. Tests Online Passport Renewals as Digital IDs Gain Traction

traveler at airport

The U.S. State Department recently announced it is beta testing a public-facing program that enables would-be travelers to renew passports online.

As of this week, people who want to renew their passports digitally can do so online. However, because the program is in trial mode, access is limited. It will only be available for a limited amount of time, beginning 1 p.m. (EST) and can only accept a limited number of applications each day.

According to the State Department’s website:

“During the next several months, we plan to continue to limit the number of applications accepted each day so we can monitor the system’s performance in real time. This beta release during which we are limiting the daily applications is an important and standard part of the software development process.”

This is not the first time the State Department has test-driven the program. It first tested a similar program in 2022 but took it down in 2023. This time officials sound more optimistic about the outcome, promising there will be a “full launch” of the digital application process soon.

This move from the State Department is undoubtedly welcome news to anyone who has had to update their passports through the traditional — and sometimes cumbersome — process of renewing by mail. However, as PYMNTS Intelligence reported earlier this year, the agency may be a little behind the curve when compared to other government agencies.

There are now more than 20 U.S. states in the process of adopting mobile driver’s licenses for their residents. Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Maryland also support mobile IDs on the iPhone’s Apple Wallet. Meanwhile, Utah, California and Iowa have each issued unique state-sponsored mobile IDs that run on native platforms (rather than third-party digital wallets).

Meanwhile, at the federal level, both the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security are exploring the use of AI and biometrics to enhance their identification confirmation requirements, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently introduced an app enabling eligible travelers to submit their photo, travel documents and customs declaration information directly through their mobile devices to streamline entry into the U.S.

PYMNTS Intelligence data confirms U.S. consumers support efforts such as these.

digital ID verification, consumer interest

In our Digital Identity Tracker, “Advanced Identity Verification Accelerates Digital Onboarding,” we found that 70% of U.S. adults are interested in advanced ID verification methods and 42% say that using such resources would positively impact the thrust they would have in the organization offering them.

As the report determined, the more familiar consumers become with advanced ID verification technologies, the more their interest they have in learning more about the technologies. As the figure above illustrates, on average, nearly 3 in 10 U.S. consumers are very or extremely interested in advanced tools like facial recognition, and that enthusiasm grows once people use the technology. Fifty-seven percent of consumers surveyed who have used advanced ID verification technology in the past are very or extremely interested in using them again, which suggests that familiarity may incubate further interest — perhaps because it helps put privacy concerns or other types of apprehension to rest.

Meanwhile, 61% of respondents say they had only slight interaction with the technologies, or none at all, suggesting organizations and agencies still have a lot of work to do in educating consumers about advanced ID verification technologies.

Such an investment in education may be worth it. As we found in completing our Digital Identity Tracker, consumers — whether preparing to travel around the globe or opening an account at their local financial institution — want frictionless and streamlined experiences. The more that agencies and businesses can do to deliver on this consumer demand, the sooner outdated and inefficient manual processes can be eliminated.