Renewing Your American Passport Abroad Painlessly

Renewing your passport abroad is much easier and faster than doing it state side. Back home, it can take up to 30 days to process and receive your new passport while doing it abroad, you can have your new passport in 5 business days. I renewed mine while I was in Sydney and it was painless and cheaper. As an expatriate or backpacker, eventually you will need to renew your passport as they are only good for 10 years at a time and if you received your current passport while you were younger than 16, it is only good for 5 years.

This guide only applies to those who are renewing their passport that still have their old one in their possession. If you lost your passport while abroad, you can expect to jump through some hoops but that is beyond the scope of this article. To start, you will need to visit www.usembassy.gov and select the country you are currently in along with the closest Embassy or Consulate. From here, you will need to find Citizen Services. Under the passport section, click renewing an adult passport and find Form DS-82. There are certain restrictions to using this form so please ensure it is the proper form, it might be the most common but depending on your circumstances, you may need a different one but they are located on the same page.

In addition to the form on the page, there should be instructions on how to send the form, your old passport, self addressed prepaid return envelope, and payment (as of October 2012, the cost is USD $110 but can also be paid in foreign currency, check the site for more details). If you are renewing via mail, follow the instructions exactly. I found it easier to just make an appointment at the consulate (link on the same page) which also allows you to pay via credit card as you cannot do that by mail as of this writing.

If you are applying in person at the consulate, you will be required to go through a security screening similar to what you go through at the airport. Leave anything home that you do not need, it speeds up the process considerably. After security, you will be lead to another part of the building with blast proof doors (I kid you not) and you need to take a number. You’ll be called up, hand in your forms, self addressed prepaid envelope, pay the money owed and your on your way. Pretty simple.

Some advice: If you are an expatriate, I HIGHLY recommend you get the passport with additional passport pages (non-standard passport) whether you think you will need them or not. It costs nothing to get the passport with additional pages but should you run out of pages at a later time, it will cost you $50 to get more added and you won’t have your passport for another 5 business days. It’s best to just get the additional pages. I got the third degree for requesting them since my old passport wasn’t completely stamped out but if you tell them you’ll be abroad for a very long time, they usually will give you the extra pages.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • It may have only taken me 5 business days to receive my new passport but it can take longer depending on how many passport renewals are being processed and the side of the world you are at.
  • You need a physical address for them to deliver the passport to. As far as I know, they do not offer pick up service. Someone correct me if I am wrong.
  • Some embassies do NOT have citizen services and you will need to go to a consulate instead, always check the website listed above for full details.
  • You absolutely need to schedule an appointment to see Citizen Services, they do not accept walk ins.
  • If you are paying by credit card, you must make a personal appearance to the consulate or embassy. Again, check the website for full details.
  • If you have lost your passport and are seeking a replacement, or are renewing a passport that you got when you were younger than 16, you will need to show additional documents and fill out a different form. You also must show up in person and cannot do it via mail. I have never had to do this so please research it first.
  • It’s best to get additional pages regardless if you think you will need them or not, especially if you’re an expat. If you have to get them at another time due to stamp out, you will pay $50 and waste more time.
  • If you are a ways away from a physical location where you can renew your passport, you will need to do it by mail unless you feel like traveling. If you don’t meet the criteria for Form DS-82, you must make a personal appearance.
  • When it comes to photos for your new passport, you must use a photographer that complies to the sizes required for a US Passport. The US uses a funny size that isn’t used elsewhere but the website will have a list of approved photographers. Be sure to use them and not a company not listed on the list as you may be making a second trip if your photo is the wrong size.
  • DO NOT send your completed forms and what not to the American address for renewing passports located on the form! That address is for those state side ONLY. Follow the instructions on the website, I cannot stress that enough.

I hope this article helps you in renewing your American passport abroad. The process seems more complicated than it is. If you are renewing an adult passport like I did and still have it in your physical possession, you can follow this article exactly, otherwise you will need to do some extra leg work. And again, be sure to follow the instructions on the embassy/consulate website for your area as rules and procedures can vary slightly place to place. Safe travels!


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