I thought of everything before I left for my adventure around the world. Everything except for adding extra pages to my passport. I had the standard 26 pages, and I only had two pages that were stamped before I left. You’d think that would be plenty, well with many of the Southeast Asia countries requiring a full page (Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand if you plan to stay longer than 30 days) my passport filled up fast. I procrastinated getting pages added to the last minute, then when they announced they would no longer be adding pages to passports after November 2015, I missed my chance of adding (all appointments were full). I didn’t need them right away but after my trip to Myanmar, I was down to my last two pages and figured it was best to get a new one in Thailand before I headed off for Indonesia.
U.S. EMBASSY IN BANGKOK VS. U.S. CONSULATE IN CHIANG MAI
Originally I was going to go to the embassy in Bangkok, but I really wanted to spend my time in Chiang Mai. I found there is a consulate there and made the decision to get it done there instead. The process is the same for both so it’s up to you if you’d rather spend a couple of weeks in Chiang Mai or Bangkok. I chose Chiang Mai and had a fast, smooth experience with the U.S. Consulate. Immigration, on the other hand, was a hassle!
APPLYING FOR A NEW PASSPORT AT U.S. CONSULATE CHIANG MAI
1) Make an appointment on-line. Note they are only open Tuesday’s and Thursday’s
2) Fill out the application online and print it out to bring with you
3) Make a photocopy of your current passport and appointment
4) Bring one 2×2 passport photo with you
5) Show up at your appointment with payment $110 in cash (THB) or by credit card
I showed up a couple of minutes early gave my appointment letter and passport to the front desk, went through security (you can not bring any electronics in with you and must turn your phone off and leave both with security). I went to counter 1, gave my paperwork and current passport, went to counter 2 to pay, then 15 minutes later counter 3 called me up to give me my passport back and let me know the new one would be ready in 2 weeks. So easy! The best part? My new passport came back in 6 days!
TRANSFERRING THE THAI VISA TO YOUR NEW PASSPORT
This was the most painful part of the whole process. The U.S. Consulate gave me a letter stating the need to transfer the visa to my new passport. The immigration office is close, right next to the airport. I went later in the day and showed up a couple of hours before they closed, it was still packed with people. I went to the front to make sure I was in the right place as the building was labeled Visa Extensions. The front desk gave me a form to fill out and said to come back the next morning at 6:00 am and would only take 30 minutes.
The next morning, I showed up right at 6:00 am and there was already a pile of people easily 40-50 waiting for them to open. I quickly realized there were three lines. One for student visas, one for spouse/business and the other for visa transfers. My line only had four people in it, score! Well at 6:10 am four officers come out and start working on the other two lines while the six of us in the transfer line waited for them to be done. 30 minutes later they get to us. They look at my paperwork quickly, give me a number and tell me to come back at 9:30 am. What?! Oh and I need to make a photocopy of ALL the pages in my current passport, departure card, and my new passport.
WAITING FOR THE VISA TRANSFER
Across the street is 7-11 and Amazon Café (which opens at 6:00 am). I walked over to get a tea and hung out a bit. I went back over about 8:30 am and next to the office is a copy place. I had all my copies made for 20 baht, then went back to the office to sit and wait, and wait.
I’m glad I got there early as they started calling numbers at 9:15 am, the number before me didn’t show up, so at 9:35 am they called my name, took my paper and passports and told me to sit. Twenty minutes later they called me back and gave me my newly minted visa in my new passport, breaking in a whole page, which went right into my PacSafe wallet along with old passport and off I went.
Getting the passport was easy, but getting the visa transferred was worse than being at the DMV! I was there for 3.5 hours! But it’s done, and now I have a new 54 page passport, which means I don’t need to come back to the states anytime soon 😉