Renewing your US passport abroad

renewing passport abroad

I’ve been slowly cranking the wheels on renewing my Czech visa since May. And while this process involves gathering paperwork from every Czech agency under the sun, the biggest holdup has actually been my US passport.

The downside of traveling as much as I have the past couple of years is that those visa pages fill up fast. And on my way back into Prague this summer, I realized that I had exactly one blank page left, which would be entirely filled by the new Czech visa. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if I didn’t plan to leave the Czech Republic for the next two years, but obviously it posed a huge problem for me.

My conundrum

If I renewed my passport, I would get a brand new one with nothing on it, including my current valid Czech visa. I wasn’t sure if doing that would void the old visa and if that would make it more difficult to renew somehow. My other option would be to wait until after I got my new visa, which would be even worse because if replacing my passport did void the visa, then I would have gone through the whole process only to immediately undo it the second I ordered a new passport.

The best solution

Apparently this is a problem that is more common than I would have guessed. I spoke to the American embassy and to the amazing person who does all my immigration paperwork, and found out that the status of my visa doesn’t change even if I get a new passport. When you renew your passport, they void and return your old one. Any valid visas on your old passport remain valid. That just means that you have to carry around two passports to show proof of that when you travel.

So in my situation, the ideal solution would be to obtain a new passport before applying for my new visa, so that all documentation relating to my renewed visa would be on a new passport. Any entry stamps related to my valid visa on my old passport would also go in the new passport with a special note indicating my visa is in another passport.

The process

As it turns out, it’s a lot easier to renew a passport abroad than it is in the US. For one, there’s a lot less volume of applications. But also because they can’t take your passport away from you. Legally you’re supposed to carry it with you at all times when you’re abroad. So when you apply for a new one, they let you hold on to your old one while you wait. This is really convenient because you never have to worry about not having a passport if you’re cutting it close to an upcoming trip.

To renew your passport abroad, all you have to do is make an appointment at the local American embassy, pay the fee and they’ll email you in 5-6 business days when your new passport is ready. I’m pretty sure this timeline is faster than having it expedited from within the US. When your new one is ready, you pick it up and they void your old passport.

If you’re an expat living in the Czech Republic and your passport needs renewing, this is easier than going to the post office here.