In preparation for this assignment in Japan, I made sure to check my passport’s expiration date. Good through 2019, well beyond my expected return to the US. Another item checked off the get ready to go list.
What I didn’t check, however, were the number of blank pages left in my passport. So when I recently found out I have a business trip in April to Russia, I started getting ready to apply for my visa. And found out that Russia requires two blank, side-by-side pages. I have one blank page and several partially blank pages…but that doesn’t meet the rules.
What to do? Well, it used to be that you could get additional pages added to a passport. But that ended at the end of 2015 with tightened security rules for passports. The only other alternative was to renew my passport.
I soon found that the process for an expat to renew a passport while living in Japan is pretty straightforward. Step-by-step process on the US Embassy website. Fill out the application form. Obtain a 2 x 2 photo (white background only). Obtain one self-addressed “Japan Post 510 yen LetterPack PLUS envelope.” Make a reservation to submit all of the above at the US Embassy’s passport window. Oh, yeah – bring a credit card or cash for the $110 application fee.
So today, my wife and I found our way to the embassy. Pretty easy subway ride, and a short walk to the embassy building. Cold wind though, and there was a surprisingly long line outside the embassy doors – mostly Japanese applying for visas. I was able to go in a shorter line for US citizens…but, since my wife didn’t have an appointment, she was – literally – left out in the cold.
Getting in the embassy is kind of like going to the airport. Take everything out of pockets. Belongings go through the x-ray. Walk through the metal detector. But then check my phone (and even my Microsoft band) at the desk. Can’t bring electronics in the embassy.
Once in, wait in another line to go through another security checkpoint. Then go inside and submit the appointment form at Window 7…and have a seat and wait. It is a crowded little room, with only two passport windows and several others for visa applications.
But the wait was short, and soon I was at the window talking with a very nice employee who, thankfully, spoke flawless English. My papers were in order and put in a file. Then it was off to the payment window to pay my fee and get a receipt, which then had to go back to the nice lady at the passport window.
All in all, a bit time-consuming, but the process seems to be pretty predictable. Now, if things work the way they should, I should have a brand-new passport with lots of blank pages, in about three weeks. More to come.