How the Bureau of Consular Affairs is improving passport renewals
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How the Bureau of Consular Affairs is improving passport renewals

March 9, 2023
Keyonna Murray

March 2023 marks three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, life in our country seemed to stop. The majority of nonessential business operations were moved online, and travel—especially international travel—was practically nonexistent.

However, things changed. While the pandemic continues today, emergency health measures have largely dissipated and people have resumed many aspects of their pre-pandemic lives, including travel.

Those changes have brought an increased need for agencies like the Bureau of Consular Affairs to deliver a strong customer experience.

Background and customer service strategy

The Bureau of Consular Affairs is responsible for issuing millions of passports to Americans each year. The bureau assists with assigning new passports, canceling them, replacing stolen or missing ones, and granting passport requests for emergency travel.

Handling such a high volume of sensitive information requires deliberate strategy and coordination, especially in the aftermath of an extended period during which travel was disrupted and people were generally more hesitant to explore the country and the world.

Fortunately, the bureau used the past couple of years to improve its operations. Previously, people could only renew a passport via the mail or in person. With the launch of MyTravelGov, some individuals can now complete the renewal process online.

This innovation not only allows for quicker passport processing, but also gives customers the ability to track the progress of their application and alter it as needed. Initially implemented on a limited basis to allow space for customer feedback, this service will be available to more Americans by the end of 2023.

An inclusive future for passport renewals

While significant, online applications are not the only customer experience improvements the bureau made.

The agency has started equipping new passports with a sticker QR code, which can be scanned to access instructional information. This digital option helps people more easily and conveniently access information, which was previously available only on paper documents. Customers can also use all available online platforms—from email to verified social media accounts—to communicate with the agency.

Additionally, the bureau is now the first federal agency to adopt the “X” gender option for passports. This allows the agency to better serve those who identify as being outside of the gender binary. Providing more gender-neutral options for individuals will help foster diversity, equity and inclusion.

These recent changes have transformed the agency by making passports much more accessible for all kinds of Americans—especially those who may have difficulty traveling to an in-person facility. The fact that 45,000 customers used the online passport renewal option during its initial trial period suggests that once the new updates are broadly incorporated, they will likely revolutionize the bureau’s customer experience and may pave the way for future innovations across government.

To learn more about customer experience at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, read the full customer experience profile.

Keyonna Murray is an intern on the Partnership’s Communications team.

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