Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to Prepare for Passport Renwals And Embassy Visits

U.S. passports of course have expiration dates. So if you hold this document, there will come a time when you must renew it. If you live abroad, this procedure will differ from country to country depending on the dictates of the local U.S.embassy in the land  where you happen to reside.  For those Americans in the Philippines, here is a link to the steps you must take in order to fulfill the requirements for passport renewals as set forth by the local embassy .  As you can see,  a trip to that office must be made to pay the renewal fee. Interestingly, when my wife renewed her passport a few years, she was able to conveniently complete the entire process by courier, including the remittance.So American embassy rules may not only differ by locale, but from one time period to another within the same country.

The American embassy here is a sprawling complex located in Manila on Roxas Blvd near the corner of United Nations Avenue. Lines both for Filipinos who are applying for  visas to enter the U.S. and for American citizens conducting business with U.S. Citizen Services begin forming around 6:00 a.m. So unless you have an appointment for your transaction,  try to arrive there around that time.

When I went to the embassy cashier's office (which opens at  7:30--no appointments required) last week to pay for my passport renewal, it was only my second time that I'd been to the embassy in the nine years I've lived in the Philippines. So  I forgot to include  that "early bird" factor in my itinerary  and thought that by leaving home around 6:00  that I would beat the crowd. No such luck. Traffic was heavy, and when I arrived at 7:15, the U.S. citizens service was already packed with a long queue waiting to enter.  So it took almost an hour  (including being processed at the security  check point) before I reached the cashier section and about another 20 minutes of waiting time in that department before I was served. The payment process itself took about 10 minutes. According to the cashier, my new passport will be delivered in about two weeks.

BTW if you will be required to present personal identification for your dealings at the embassy, bring along two sets as you will be required to leave one of them with  the security checkpoint before entering the main building. Any bags you're carrying will be carefully inspected.  You must also surrender your mobile phone and other electronic equipment that you've brought along. So be sure to advise any important contacts ahead of time that you will be out of touch with them possibly for a couple hours..

One thing that the Philippines and the U.S. have in common is that dealing with government offices can be a frustrating experience. I hope that these guidelines will help simplify your passport renewal chores and  embassy encounter.