Recently, I decided to renew my U.S. passport in Qatar. Many countries will not let you in or give you a visa without six months of validity left on your passport. While mine wasn’t near that, I knew I was going to be traveling during that time period and didn’t want to get stuck somewhere. I knew one person at work who had already done it and I asked her some questions, but the U.S. Embassy Doha’s website had good information and it seemed simple.
First, I needed to get new passport photos taken! Ugh! I am not a fan of having my photo taken because I never look like me. I had them taken three times at two different places and cancelled my first appointment because of the bad photos. Of course, then my next appointment was late in February and I am traveling today and I was worried I would be cutting it close. However, it turns out that in Qatar, you don’t have to give up your current passport to renew it, so I was as concerned. I finally got a photo I was okay with (and no I am not sharing!) and went to the appointment.
Making the appointment is easy because in Qatar, you can do it online. My appointment was for February 22 at 1:00pm. I was told to arrive early so that you can go through the security screening and be on time for your appointment. You are also not allowed to bring in your phone, cameras, or any electronics. I found out later this included my Fitbit! I arrived at 12:15. You are directed to a port-a-cabin outside the embassy. Inside the port-a-cabin, you take a number depending on your appointment. I took a number for U.S. Citizen Services. There were a few other people inside when I arrived.
I thought that they would start calling numbers before 1:00pm since that is when all the appointments are given, but no! They didn’t start calling numbers till 1:00pm. You leave the port-a-cabin and go to the window at the embassy gate. They ask you some questions and then you get in line to be security screened. You then go to another area where they send you through a metal detector, but not before they take away your keys and your Fitbit! They also took my ID to match me up with my stuff later. Then you walk to the embassy, which is about a quarter of mile from the gate. Okay, it might not be that long, but it was long. Then you go through security screening again! Yes, this it the third one.
Again, you take a number. It should of been as simple as taking my application and then I go pay, but I had made a mistake. I had filled out the application by hand because I wanted the extra pages passport and the online application wouldn’t let me choose it. They made me go to their very slow and old computer to refill it out and print it. Then they took the application and sent me to pay. You pay and then they call your name again and tell you when to pick it up. They tell everyone 2 weeks in Qatar. It was 402QR or $110, which you can pay in cash or by credit card. Not sure if they take U.S. cash though.
I was told to expect an email telling me to pick up my new passport, but they said come in two weeks even if you don’t get it. I never got an email from the embassy, however I had signed up for passport tracking from the state department’s website, so I knew it was on its way back to Qatar. You take your receipt and your old passport back to the embassy two weeks later. Again, you have to take a number and wait, but you only have to go to the window at the gate. I verified everything was correct and they cancelled my old passport and I was done. This seemed much easier than it is in the U.S., as you have to send that in by mail with your old passport and it takes 6 weeks. Also, I was told the extra pages passport was automatically given to people renewing abroad. My suggestion, if you are traveling for a long time, is to renew it abroad. It seemed easier and faster.
Each U.S. Embassy is different and you need to check their rules on renewals. In London, you have to send it in by courier and in Bangkok you have to make an appointment to come in. You also have to be in a country that has a U.S. Embassy. However you do it, make sure you don’t get stuck not being able to travel because you don’t have enough time left on your passport!
What about you? Have you ever renewed your passport abroad? Tell us below.