When I first applied for a passport so many years ago- I never in a million years thought I would “run out of pages,” let alone do so while I was out of the country!
However, as you know, my life is FULL-TIME travel now, not occasional vacation travel… and well the time has come. I only had five pages left in my passport when I arrived here in Chiang Mai. Many countries require you have at least two blank pages in order to enter their country- so this was going to be a problem for me sooner than later. (Considering that while I was here in Thailand I went to Siem Reap, Cambodia AND Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for short weekends, that makes the page count even smaller!)
So I set about figuring out how to renew my passport from here. I knew this was my best bet because I had plans to stay here for about two months, and that SHOULD BE plenty of time to apply and get an updated passport.
So here is how it works:
1- Go to the Chiang Mai Consulate web site and make an appointment for passport services. At this time they are only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays for this.
2- From the consulate website follow the Passport Renewal Instructions. (The US no longer offers additional pages for passports, you have to apply for a brand new one. PLUS- just to make life interesting- I still hadn’t changed my name since my divorce, so my passport didn’t have my “real/legal” name on it.)
3- The Passport Wizard application makes completing the application very easy. You fill out the blanks and the form completes. You save it as a PDF and print. I found a print shop in the basement of the Maya mall and paid six Baht per page to print the pages. (About $.25.)
4- On the day of your appointment go to the consulate. Don’t bring much as you will have to go through security. You will be asked to leave your phone at the front security desk, so if you need something to do, bring a book or something to doodle on- regardless of your appointment time- you will be there a while.
5- After going through security, you take a number from the machine just inside the doorway and go sit down to wait for your number to be called. My “appointment” was at 8:45. I took my number at 8:08 (it has a time stamp) my number was called around 9:25. So your “appointment” is more about crowd control than an actual time that you will see someone.
6- When your number is called you go to Window One. Bring your application, passport photo, old passport, money… and in my case, all the documentation to change my name.
7- The employee there will review all the documents, review your application, make copies of any relevant information that also needs to be sent. (Such as my divorce decree.) She puts it all in a plastic folder, puts your invoice on top- gives you back your number and sends you with the packet to Window Three to pay.
8- Hand your packet to the person in Window Three, pay the fee and go back to the waiting room. While you are waiting, a “next level” employee is verifying your paperwork, authenticating it, making sure that everything is ok, and that you have provided what they need to approve your application.
9- Your number is called again. This time you go to Window Two. The nice lady there gave me back my current passport, my original copy of the divorce decree, my receipt, and a slip of paper telling me the next steps.
You don’t know how happy I was to get that passport back! In the US you have to send in your old passport to get the new one. I was worried that I would be here in Thailand without my passport! (She said “No, the US government does not want it’s citizens to be without while traveling!”) I can even travel on it, while my other one is in process- which is great because I have tickets to travel this weekend and was worried I was going to have to cancel them because the passport wouldn’t be back on time!
10- When the new passport is in Chiang Mai and ready to be picked up, (only EIGHT DAYS), they email you. Go back to the consulate and directly to Window Three. (I had my Uber wait for me!) You do not have to take a number, nor do you have to wait. They hand you the new passport, “clip” the old one to invalidate it (you get to keep it for the souvenir value!) and provide you with a document directing Thai Immigration to transfer your current Visa to your new passport.
When I went through immigration in Chiang Mai airport, they didn’t even look at the letter from the embassy until after he had done what he needed to to transfer the info. I just handed him both passports and said- “This is a little more complicated than usual… ” <insert big smile here> and he just took care of it. Easy Peasy!
VOILA! New Passport! Updated Name! And I applied for the extra big 52 page version – so hopefully I won’t have to go through this very often!
Have you had any “interesting” experiences renewing your passport?