The U.S. State Department is testing a new online passport renewal system, which it says will make the renewal process easier and faster.

That’s good news for Marylanders looking to travel overseas, especially after many faced extended delays last year due to “unprecedented demand” for passport services on top of the regular seasonal demand.

The State Department issued almost 440,000 passports to Marylanders amid an application spike and flooded renewal system last year. It also issued 24 million passports to people across the county — a jump from 22 million it issued the year before.

The Online Passport Renewal accepts a limited number of applications per day. Once the portal has reached its daily limit, it will close until the next day, according to the agency.

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The application threshold will gradually ramp up over time, allowing the State Department to properly track any issues that arise and address them quickly to improve the process.

“The goal is to save Americans time and effort, making it more convenient to renew their U.S. passports,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement.

The test of the online renewal system comes amid the busy summer travel season. In Maryland, the summer season remains a peak period for air travel at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, according to Johnathan Dean, director of communications at BWI. July is typically the busiest month, he said.

Last year, passenger traffic at the airport reached 26.2 million, 15% higher than the previous year, according to Dean. International passenger traffic reached a record of 1.3 million as several as new international airlines and routes were introduced.

One airline, Condor, has a “larger and improved aircraft on its nonstop service between BWI Marshall and Frankfurt, Germany. And British Airways is enhancing the business class product on its service between BWI Marshall and London,” Dean said.

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Public beta of online passport renewal system

In order to renew a passport online, eligible people must first create a account. They must able U.S. citizens and residents ages 25 and older who have already had an existing passport for 10 years. The passport must still be in the applicant’s possession (and not previously reported lost or stolen). It can be expired.

Individuals are only eligible to use the online system if they are not changing their name, gender, date of birth or place of birth for the new passport.

The State Department expects the public beta test to last several months, it said. It will conclude when they agency feels confident the system’s website can process the significant volume of passport applications they expect to be submitted online daily without interruption, “with a seamless and positive customer experience.”

Once fully launched, the agency expects about five million customers to be eligible to renew their passports online each year, representing at least two-thirds of annual passport renewals and roughly 25% of all passport applications.

Current processing times are six to eight weeks for routine service and two to three weeks for expedited service.