Seems Americans have caught the travel bug. Maybe it’s because there is more disposable income in a post-recession America, or a more global economy requires more international business travel. Whatever the reason, one result is that passports are a hot commodity these days. The U.S. Department of State says it issued well over a million more passports in fiscal year (FY) 2014 than in FY 2011.

That’s also a mini-boon to the U.S. Postal Service, which accepted 5.2 million passport applications in FY 2014 alone, earning $129.4 million in revenue. And the Postal Service has been taking steps that could enhance that profit center. Specifically, in 2013 it initiated a pilot designating five post offices as passport centers. Located in the Pacific Area, these facilities offer expanded service hours and staff dedicated to facilitating the passport acceptance process. (The Postal Service is authorized to accept passport applications on behalf of the State Department. It then sends the passports to the State Department for approval.)

The pilot is a success, with revenue at the centers increasing by 150 percent between FY 2013 and FY 2014. Management is planning to expand the effort in FY 2016.

In a recent audit we supported the idea of expanding passport centers and identified 181 post offices that have attributes in common with the five existing centers. They’re located near either a shopping center or a U.S. border, and their passport-related revenue is already growing, indicating strong demand for passport services in their respective areas.

In that same audit we found the Postal Service could raise even more revenue if it were to expand the number of facilities that offer passport photo service in conjunction with passport application processing. We estimated it would have generated an additional $19.1 million in FY 2014 if just under half (48.1 percent) of all passport applicants had paid for a photo. The Postal Service might also be able to increase revenue by making the price of its photo services more competitive. Currently, it charges $15, which is as much as 47 percent higher than competitors’ fees.

Have you used the Postal Service to get a new or renewed passport? If so, tell us about your experience. Would you be more likely to use the Postal Service for passport photos if the price were lower? What other government services are a good fit for the Post Office network?

Comments (10)

  • anon

    Interesting analysis ! I learned a lot from the insight , Does someone know if my business can get ahold of a blank DS-82 example to fill out ?

    Oct 03, 2016
  • anon

    I have been attempting to contact the USPS Charlotte Passport appointment line since 1/6 (704)-359-0761 (0762) (0763) (0764) and no one has answered and the voicemail box is full. I went out to the post office and was told I couldn't talk to anyone in person pertaining to the passport process and no one could schedule an appointment for me. Will someone please reach out to me so I can schedule an appointment and start my passport process? Thank you.

    Jan 11, 2016
  • anon

    I tried to use the post office to apply for a new passport. I printed the application, filled it out, got the photos, had all documentation listed in the instructions. Went to post office number 1 - was told they don't do passports there - really? you're a post office. OK, where can I get this done? 10 miles away (gave city, no address)... Here is their phone number. Called the number several times. They NEVER answered the phone. Went to www.usps.com to look up address. Went to that location - No post office. Looked up USPS in my GPS - it gave a different address - went to THAT location - NO post office. I will contact the passport people to determine where else I can go. Washington DC is only about 90 miles from me (the first post office? less than 1/2 mile) BUT I will drive to DC if it means I don't have to use the post office for this service.

    Dec 04, 2015
  • anon

    Our mail delivery is sporadic and unreliable. There seems to be no one to contact regarding this -- please advise.

    Nov 12, 2015
  • anon

    Unfortunately, this issue falls outside of the jurisdiction of our office. As the Office of Inspector General (OIG), our role is to investigate waste, theft, fraud, and abuse within the Postal Service through our audits and investigations. Please contact the U.S. Postal Service Customer Service office either by visiting www.usps.com or by calling 1-800-222-1811.

    Nov 13, 2015
  • anon

    i would like to thank you for the information that i have received and i will purchase an passport for myself and the members of my family.

    Nov 10, 2015
  • anon

    Having a on going problem with our mail carrier we have curb side delivery where we continue almost weekly to get the wrong mail or not get our mail at all. Important documents have gone missing such as bills checks from the bank. We have complained numerous times to supervisors at the post office with no help at all. I would appreciate someone looking into this issue.

    Nov 10, 2015
  • anon

    Unfortunately, this issue falls outside of the jurisdiction of our office. As the Office of Inspector General (OIG), our role is to investigate waste, theft, fraud, and abuse within the Postal Service through our audits and investigations. Please contact the U.S. Postal Service Customer Service office either by visiting www.usps.com or by calling 1-800-222-1811.

    Nov 13, 2015
  • anon

    I am a Postal retiree, having worked 32 years for the Postal Service. During my last four years I was a passport acceptance agent. I absolutely loved accepting passport applications and agree that more revenue could be achieved in offering longer passport acceptance hours and Saturday passport hours since parents are hesitant to take their children out of school during the week. I felt that the $15 photo fee was too high--I wouldn't want to pay that. $7.00 would be much more acceptable. I believe the Postal Service should make Passport Acceptance Agent a dedicated job. Right now in so many offices, the acceptance agent is working the window, answering the customer service line, etc. in addition to fitting in passport customers. Making appointments and having a dedicated employee would improve the experience.

    Nov 09, 2015
  • anon

    Well stated idea for the Postal Service to increase revenue! I, a 36 year postal veteran myself and still counting, have once worked as a General Clerk in an associate office that offered passport service. I assisted as lobby director by helping the customers assemble their passport applications before joining the retail line. Once everything was together, they became next in line to a dedicated window that continued to process the retail portion of the application. I agree. Making Passport Acceptance Agent a bidding assignment could definitely enhance the generation of postal revenue.

    Nov 10, 2015

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