Ah, the passport. That little blue booklet without which any expat’s wanderings would be impossible. I may be slightly too emotionally attached to mine, and this summer I’ve suffered separation anxiety when it has been kept from me not once, but twice. The first time, when I had it renewed in Vietnam, was the less stressful of the two occasions. Despite certain former employees of the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City having been disgraced for receiving bribes in exchange for visas, the US Citizen Services department seems to be doing its job. My new passport was issued on time, and with the right name on it. What more could I ask?
In my impossibly complicated Summer of Paperwork, this was the easiest step. I needed to apply for a Spanish visa as soon as I arrived in the US, so I wasn’t going to have time to also renew my passport there. Luckily, renewing your US passport in Vietnam takes only 10 days, which is much faster than renewing it at home. For once, a simple bit of paperwork that won’t over-complicate your expat life. Hurray!
This is a simple guide to renewing your US passport in HCMC. If you need to renew in Hanoi, I’m sure the Embassy can help you out.
Step 1: Make an Appointment. This is a must, and you can do so here. Print out your appointment letter to show the security guards when you arrive. You’ll need it inside too.
Step 2: Get your picture taken. It needs to be 2×2 inches or 5×5 centimeters. Make sure your photographer knows that they’re for a passport and doesn’t retouch the photo too much. The Vietnamese loooove Photoshop, and I had to stop my photo guy as he was changing my skin-tone to (what to him is) a more desirable, whiter color, and reshaping and coloring my hair.
Step 3: Attend your appointment with your appointment letter, photographs, old passport, and money. You’ll be required to hand over your cell phone at security so don’t rely on the emailed copy of the appointment letter. You can also bring the renewal application form, already filled out to save time. The fee at the time of writing this post is $110 USD to be paid in USD or VND when you apply. Updated info can be found on the US consulate website. As always in Vietnam, if you bring cash, make sure it’s in good condition, because they won’t take bills that are worn or torn.
Once inside, you’ll head to the passport window of US Citizen Services and give them your appointment letter. They’ll call you up in a little while and ask for your application form, photos and old passport. They’ll have a look, you’ll sign some things, and then they’ll send you to another window to pay. You’ll get a receipt which you have to hold on to in order to pick up your new passport. They’ll notify you by phone or email when it’s ready. It’s really that simple!
The consulate is located at 4 Le Duan, Dist. 1 HCMC, in a nondescript, walled-in complex with Vietnamese guards posted at the doors. There is no parking at the consulate, but there is a moderately friendly coffee lady across the street who lets you park your motorbike for the exorbitant fee of 10-15,000 VND. I bet if you actually buy a coffee from her it would be cheaper.
Good luck renewing your passport, and here’s to hoping that the Spanish government will hurry up and reunite me with mine!