There is one big reason that many types of registrations/applications are done in person and not online – once something is online, it is vulnerable to hacking of some kind. We have seen this over and over again with a variety of companies and industries who promised that your data would be safe. So, why do I think it is a good time to allow US passport renewals online?
Time to Allow US Passport Renewals Online?
I am all for keeping some things out of reach of online insecurities but, at the same time, airlines and hotels have made it possible to scan and save your passport to their servers so why not make the passport something that we can actually renew online?
When it comes to things being accessed, the real danger is actually not having physical control over the passport. US passports are quite secure in how they are manufactured with special holographic machines being used in their production and security chips being installed. So, having physical control is the biggest issue with the security of a US passport.
Now, the US State Department continues to face a long backlog in passport applications and renewals. It can take months to get a passport renewed and the old system of paying extra for an in-person appointment to get a passport issued in just days continues to be prioritized for life-death emergencies. Could allowing passport renewals online help at all?
What US Passport Issues Can be Done Online?
Currently, the State Department allows a limited amount of things to be done online, concerning passports. Those items are:
- Find, download, fill out and print passport forms
- Locate a passport acceptance facility near you
- Check the status of your application
- Report a lost or stolen passport
How Would US Passport Renewals Online Help?
Consider that during the shutdown of many passport facilities, the backlog was due to the amount applications that needed to be opened and processed. Imagine if passport renewals could be submitted online instead. Instead of having to mail in a renewal and wait the weeks it currently does to be opened and handled, it could be in the State Department system immediately. Payment could be processed immediately as well and then it automatically goes into the printing queue, as long as there are no issues (which the online system should notify you of, if there were any).
What issues may there be? When you renew a passport now, as long as you are over 16, you can do it right through the mail so there is no one checking your passport photos anyway. In fact, if you could do it online, everyone would know prior to submission that the photos were approved. So, it is not an issue of someone faking anything to get a renewed passport.
One issue is that the renewal process currently requires you to send in your expiring passport – the State Department then punches holes in it to show it is no longer valid. But, with such an important document as a passport, isn’t it the responsibility of the person checking it for verification at any point of entry to ensure that it is not expired? Also, the State Department could expire the passport for when it is scanned in an entry system. Plus, if you were to lose your passport and then find it later (which is what happened to me once), you would still have a passport that was not “punched” so that should not be a reason to not allow online renewals.
As long as there would be strong end-to-end encryption, it would likely be more secure than sending your currently valid passport through the mail. Plus, it would be handled much quicker. With an online renewal system in place, the State Department could even section out a department to process only those applications which means that those applications could be handled much quicker than at present.
Plus, consider this – the country of Greece will be allowing their citizens to renew passports online by the end of 2021. Shouldn’t the US be able to have a system in place as well, if Greece is able and willing to do it?
With many systems in place online now for handling people’s IDs and even Apple soon moving to put state IDs into Apple Wallet, why can’t the US State Department allow for US passport renewals to be done online? It could be a huge help to lower the current backlog and be a way to make sure that those just wanting to renew could get it done much quicker than a projected 14 weeks for basic handling (current estimate).
Of course, mail-in renewals would need to stay as well for those that would prefer but it would be great if we had a digital option as well.