Recently I had to renew my expiring American passport here in the Netherlands. This post offers some advice for U.S. nationals who may find themselves in the same situation…
It was early last year when I first realized my American passport was due to expire in November. Two thoughts popped into my head: a) there is still lots of time so I’ll put it on the back burner, and b) it’s going to be a long complicated process. Both turned out to be inaccurate.
The thing with time is that no matter how old we get (and despite even our own claims that it moves faster these days than it used to), we inherently go back to the measuring stick we developed as a child. Back then, if we had to wait an hour for something, it was a burden. A month’s wait seemed like it would never end and a year was the equivalent of infinity. So, of course, I was surprised when I pulled out my passport preparing for a holiday trip in September, to realize I now only had two months before it expired. Still, it wasn’t until I returned to Holland that trip, that I realized the predicament I had put myself in. Yes, I still had seven weeks before it was due to expire, but another international trip was booked right in the middle of that window.
The good news is that I over-estimated how complicated the process was going to be and how long it was going to take. For an American expat living in Holland who needs to renew his/her U.S. passport, here are the most important steps to follow…
- Go to the American Embassy in the Netherlands website and open U.S. State Department Form DS-82
- Fill in all the required fields, making sure to check the boxe(ex) for the type of document you are applying for: passport book (standard 28 page or non-standard 52 page), passport card* or both
- Print out the completed form
- Check that all the information you entered is correct
- Sign the form
Whether you plan to submit the passport renewal application in person or by mail, you’re going to need a new passport photo. It’s important to note that the photo must meet the required dimensions, which are not the same as European passport photo dimensions. According to the State Department website, incorrectly sized photos is the most common reason renewal applications get denied. Once you have the photo, staple it to the renewal form within the marked box.
Submitting the application for passport renewal
At this point, you have two choices for submitting the renewal application:
- In Person: Schedule an appointment to visit the U.S. Consulate in Amsterdam to submit your renewal application in person
- By Mail: Submit your renewal application to the U.S. Consulate in Amsterdam by mail
If you live outside the Amsterdam area, I would recommend saving yourself the commute time and send by mail. I did it this way and had no problems. Also remember that the first available appointment you may be able to get at the Consulate is you plan on visiting could be 1-2 weeks from the time you set the appointment.
If you choose to submit by mail, you need to print one more document to include with your submission – credit card payment authorization form. Fill this form in by hand. The credit cards that are accepted for payment are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and Diner’s Club.
Your passport renewal application package
Here is a checklist of what things need to be included in the envelope for the renewal application to be processed:
- A fill-in U.S. State Dept Form DS-85 with your signature and the required size passport photo stapled to it
- Your current U.S. passport
- A self-addressed return envelope (no postage required) where the old and new passport should be mailed
Take the envelope to the nearest PostNL and have them apply the right amount of postage so that it reaches the American Consulate in Amsterdam without a problem. The Consulate is not responsible for any passports they do not receive.
Your done! If everything is in order, you should receive your old and new passport back within 15 business days. I received my new passport approximately 6 business days after sending off my passport renewal package.
If you applied for both a passport book and a passport card, be aware the passport card will be mailed separately. Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t come right away. My passport card arrived approximately 4 weeks after the new passport book.
For any additional questions, have a look at the Passports section of the American Embassy and Consulate in the Netherlands website or call the consulate T:+31 (0)20 575 5309 during operating hours Monday to Friday 08:00-16:30.