USAGov teamed up with the Department of State to find out ways to improve the passport application and renewal processes by asking the people who know best: their customers! We reached out in December of 2016 to visitors to USA.gov, Travel.State.Gov, and USPS.com, as well as our social media followers and email subscribers.
We asked, "The U.S. Department of State wants to improve your experience of applying for or renewing a U.S. passport. How can we improve the application process to make it simpler and easier?"
Over 900 people gave their suggestions. They also came back later to help us group all of these suggestions into the following insights.
An online process would be much easier and more convenient. People have lots of ideas about this, such as--
- Allowing multiple forms of online payment like credit and debit cards.
- Getting updates on the status of applications
- Taking passport photos and getting an immediate accuracy check
- User accounts that let you save your progress and complete an application over time
- And many more…
Applicants have already taken the time to provide their personally identifying information and other data with government agencies. Make the agencies share it with the Passport office.
Notifying passport holders about the upcoming expiration of their passport by email, text or letter would help to prevent stressful (and more expensive) last-minute renewals. Pushing reminders would also help the State Department reduce the demand for processing at peak times of year, which can make the process faster for everyone.
Some people get lost in the renewing or applying processes, most often with first-time applications, which are complicated. On-demand support for customers -- whether at home or in person -- could help with quick answers to avoid frustration and delays. Online web chat is one possible way.
- Some people have to apply in person, such as first time applicants, but it’s hard to do.
- More Acceptance Facilities, longer hours, and more appointment slots
- A single online appointment system to make scheduling appointments easier
Because everyone has different preferences and needs, offer more choices for how to apply or renew -- such as by mail, online, in-person, or even a combination of ways if it helps someone.
The instructions on the DS-forms and the website Travel.State.gov are just too hard to understand, which causes frustration, mistakes, and delays. Use plain and to-the-point language that makes what to do perfectly clear for everyone.
Fees for passport books and cards could be lowered to help make them affordable for everybody. For example,
- Older Americans
- Families applying for multiple members
- Early renewal applicants
Many had a great experience when applying for or renewing their passports.