It’s a great time to be offering passport services. In the next couple of years, the U.S. Department of State anticipates a rise in new and renewal applications because of expiring passports, heightened security rules, and an improving economy.

This is good news for the U.S. Postal Service, which accepts and executes applications on behalf of the State Department, charging $25 for the service. The Postal Service’s Passport Acceptance Facilities (PAFs) examined, certified, and shipped over 5.4 million new passport applications in fiscal year (FY) 2015. Customers also sent millions of renewal passport applications through the mail. 

However, our white paper, Passport to Excellence, has found the Postal Service needs to revamp its passport services or it could miss this growth opportunity. Although the Postal Service earned $135.8 million in revenue from passport applications in FY 2015, passport applications and revenues have been trending downward over the past decade. Fewer applications also mean less revenue from ancillary services the Postal Service provides, including passport photo services, sale of money orders for paying the State Department passport processing fees, and Priority Mail envelopes to send renewals to the State Department. In 2015, that ancillary revenue totaled more than $80 million.

Using four types of analysis, including customer sentiment and transactional data analysis, we identified three primary reasons for the Postal Service’s declining passport application numbers:

  • The passport application process is confusing to customers
    • Customers didn’t know which post offices required appointments, contributing to long wait times.
    • They didn’t understand the instructions for applying, often forcing a return.
  • has inaccurate PAF hours and appointment information
    • 55 percent of PAFs had the wrong hours listed for passport services; 22 percent of PAFs never answered our calls asking about hours.
  • The customer experience is inconsistent at different PAFs
    • Some PAFs are very successful, while others are not. Local efforts seem to drive passport services success – headquarters doesn’t collect best practices or share information on what makes PAFs successful.

Our paper makes a series of recommendations for improving the passport application process and reinvigorating the service. We suggest, for example, that the Postal Service provide passport application instructions on, hang signs in PAFs detailing the process, and create a script for clerks handling phone calls about passport applications and services.

We are interested in your experiences. What other ways could the Postal Service improve passport services? What changes could it make to maximize passport revenues? 

Comments (9)

  • anon

    I have been trying to schedule an appointment to get my son's passport renewed for the past 4 weeks. I have called and left a message 3 times now and have heard nothing. IS THIS NORMAL????

    Aug 29, 2017
  • anon

    The main Anchorage Alaska post office on Postmark Rd. Is seriously understaffed. My wife and I plus our 11 year old and 16 year old daughters, whose passports we were trying to renew, waited in line about 2 hours before we got to talk to someone. Others waited longer in a long line that at times extended out the door. Finally our younger daughter got her papers processed for the renewal. However, our older 16 year old daughter was told her ID was insufficient notwithstanding our submission of her existing passport which was to be renewed and other ID including a parents affidavit. She doesn't yet have a drivers license which the clerk wanted. Totally ridiculous and frustrating. Now we must get her student ID at home, which they will accept (rather than her existing passport), drive a half an hour to the post office and presumably wait another 2 hours in line.

    Oct 11, 2016
  • anon

    I have been trying to make an appointment for my wife and I for several weeks. I never get a call back from the 800 number. What is a reasonable time to wait before calling again? They say don't call more than once, but I would like to get our passports before we are too old to travel.

    Oct 07, 2016
  • anon

    Post office needs to decide whether they want passport services revenue or not. The mystery shopper program has managers SO terrified, they will pull clerks out in the middle of a passport application to wait on the line, even when there was no line when the passport was started. Leaving passport customers waiting till when? What if are customers in line the rest of day? Leave them hanging with no public restrooms? Absurd.

    Sep 08, 2016
  • anon

    I have no negative comments about the different services the Post Office offers in my neighborhood, Manassas (20110), they are always prompt to help. I had my passport issued there and it was a very smooth operation.

    Apr 22, 2016
  • anon

    It's hard to focus on passport service, when everyone is moving the mail, entering data, handling customer issues. Most of the time you only have one clerk doing passports, but that's not her/his only job, so you have to go by they're schedule. Passport acceptance is not a requirement for clerks and not to mention the time it takes at the window, increasing wait time for other customers when one clerk is doing passports at an already short staff window can bring more complaints. I do agree with hiring more clerks and also have an area or office to complete passports, which some PO have.

    Apr 15, 2016
  • anon

    with people like one to grant visibly all of that numerous populaces would am inflicted with sold for electronic ebook to create selected jumps in favor of their unique terminate, mainly right away ebfaceacedad

    Apr 13, 2016
  • anon

    Passport services having limited hrs available to the public is absurd-10am-2pm. It will require at least half a day's time away from work/school. Since there is such high demand, would it not make sense to hire more personnel.

    Apr 12, 2016
  • anon

    I just recently received my passport I.d card.I took my book passport to the post office, paid 30.00 and priority mail charge. It took about 2 weeks to get the card, another few days for my current pass book ( expires 2017 ). Thae card is more economical for me. I see it's not accepted for flights, and assuming that means ca. and other countries....destinations.

    Apr 11, 2016

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