Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gettin' Better All the Time

During my trip back from the States in March, I noticed that my passport was due to expire in June. Immediately I panicked and imagined an endless wait in some embassy lounge. When I arrived home, I jumped on the Internet to research my options.

For expats living in Germany, there are two options for passport renewal. You can either go to the embassy in person and apply or you can apply by mail. I quickly discovered that the embassy responsible for me is located in Hamburg. In April I rang them up. On my first try, I got an actual person . . . an actual person who could even answer my questions. For renewal by mail all I needed to send in was my old passport, the application form, 2 passport photos and a payment form. That all seemed easy enough.

Two weeks ago, I realized that my passport expiration date was at the end of the month. Crap! What happened to April and May? I downloaded the ridiculous passport photo requirements (50cm X 50cm, white background, ears visible, head must be a certain percent of the picture, etc., etc.) and set out to have my picture taken. I had to go to 3 shops before I found a place that could take them!

On June 4 I put my application in the mail and crossed my fingers. Yesterday I got a note from my postman that I had to go to the post office and sign for a letter. I walked up there this morning, and there it was, my new passport!!! I could hardly believe my eyes.

I have to tip my hat to the people at the U.S. Consulate General in Hamburg. They answered all my questions and processed my application in a speed not often associated with American bureaucracy. Unfortunately, I discovered on their website that as of July, U.S. citizen services is being moved to Berlin.

My day took an unexpected turn as I was walking to the post office. My afternoon English lesson called to cancel. So, after the post office I walked into town and discovered that it is farmer's market day. The main street was blocked off and lined with wagons and people selling their wares. There was the cheese guy, and the honey guy, and the potato lady, and the Dutch flower guy prattling away in his clipped German accent.

The market was buzzing with activity. I enjoyed my stroll and discovered a woman who makes her own fresh ravioli. I picked up some parma ham and ricotta cheese ravioli, fresh bread, feta cheese and flowers. I am now very stuffed after an excellent lunch. Time for a nap.

I love it when a good day will sneak up on you when you least expect it.

PS Expats in Germany needing to renew their passports can find information here.


christina said...

Ahem...AMERICAN expats needing to renew their passports need to go there. I have to send my application to a different place. And they make me do it every 5 years too. You guys are lucky :-)

Sounds like you had a great day.

PapaScott said...

Renewing a US passport for an adult is easy and can be done by mail.

Renewing a US passport for a child must be done in person at the consulate, with the child and both parents present. And then it's only good for 5 years.

My sons passport expires this fall, and I'm seriously wondering if it is worth the bother since he also has a German Kinderpass.

Dixie said...

A good day indeed!

I posted just about the same thing last February when I renewed my passport. I live down the street from a photographer so it was easy for me to get photos of the right size - you just walk in and say you want American passport photos and he knows just what to do.

Anyway, from the time I mailed in my application until the day it was delivered, nine days had passed. Easy as pie. I just went last week to have my residency visa transferred into my new passport and that was easy as well - 'cept I had to bring a new biometric photo with me...the old one wasn't. Good thing that photographer is nearby!

Anonymous said...

Holy crap, the photos need to be 50 x 50 *cm* these days?!?!

ann said...

Did mine last year by mail. I thought at the time that it had to be sent to the States, but the MUST not be the case.

Have you seen all the articles about people waiting months for their passports because of the new regulations?

The security check in Frankfurt can be a pain, but they've been good to me.

vailian said...

Hey, thanks for that information! My passport is going to expire in a year, and I was dreading the hassle involved in getting it done, and you have given me courage to do it! AND: your link led me to discover that my daughter is an American citizen (I thought she was only German). Thanks to you, the number of American citizens has grown by one.

Dixie said...

Passports for those living overseas are no longer able to be produced in the consulates so they are sent back to the US to be made. They get sent via diplomatic courier so they get to the State Department overnight and they get processed immediately because you have to send in your old one with the application. Until you get your new one back you're unable to leave the country you're in. Thank goodness this is one thing the government does right.