Quicker, Easier, Cheaper, Safer
“Vicki and I faced a problem,” writes intrepid Correspondent Paul Terhorst. “Our U.S. passports were due to expire in a year. Where should we renew?
“Many countries require passports to be valid for six months, sometimes a full year, before they’ll issue you a visa. The U.S. passport agency recommends renewal about nine months ahead of expiration.
“So we needed new passports. However, our travel schedule presented a timing problem. Vicki and I are wrapping up a one-year stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We’ve scheduled a trip to the U.S. for later this year, and we could renew there then. But the passport website says it takes up to six weeks for regular service, up to three weeks for expedited service. We plan to spend only a little more than a month in the States, and then travel to Argentina. We would only barely have enough time for the renewal process. We’d have to wait for the passports before buying tickets to Argentina, adding uncertainty and probably a higher cost (for last-minute tickets).
“Solution: We renewed our passports at the U.S. consulate here in Chiang Mai. Even though we’re non-residents in this country, and even though we were just over a year from expiration, the consulate renewed for us, no sweat. Overseas renewal turned out to be quicker, easier, cheaper, and safer.
“Quicker. The consulate said we’d have our new passports within two weeks. In fact, we got mine in five working days and Vicki’s a few days later–much faster than delivery times in the U.S., according to the website.
“Easier. We booked an appointment at the consulate online, walked over, handed them the paperwork, and paid the fee in cash. They accept both Thai baht and dollars. We avoided waiting in line at the post office, and we avoided having to deal with (and pay for) a delivery service.
“Cheaper. We paid only the US$75 passport fee. In the U.S., we’d have had to have paid the US$75 fee, an expediting charge of US$60, and the cost of special delivery.
“Safer. The consulate sent the passports to Washington, D.C., in the diplomatic pouch. If the new passports had disappeared, it would have been their problem, not ours. We kept our old passports until the new ones arrived.
“The new passports say we renewed at the ‘United States Department of State,’ with no mention of Thailand.
“We requested and received passports with extra pages.
“After receiving the new passports, we went to Thai Immigration to inquire about transferring our Thai exit-date stamp to our new passport. No problem. All we have to do is to present both the new and expired passports when we leave the country.
“Conclusion: Whether you live in the U.S. or abroad, next time consider renewing your U.S. passport at a convenient overseas consulate. It’s quicker, easier, cheaper, safer.
“As soon as we received the new passports, I took pictures of the title pages and had the pictures developed in a 3×5 format. I cut the pictures in half, glued the back onto the front, and had the resulting ‘IDs’ laminated in plastic.
“This gives us copies of our passports–which is a really good idea–and convenient IDs. If we lose them, we can just make another set. The process only costs about a dollar apiece.”