48 New Pages of Possibility

US Passport

Our most recent purchase – a fatter passport

There’s something vaguely exciting about the blank visa pages contained within my passport. As much as I love the stamps documenting where I’ve been, it’s those empty visa spaces where all the possibilities reside; each one bursting with promises of travel stories as yet untold but yearning to be written.

Recently, though, we’ve been burning through our blank visa pages like rolling papers at a Colorado ski resort. The truth is that we’re traveling more these days than our passports were designed to accommodate. It’s a high class problem for sure. But it is a problem nonetheless. And one that we suddenly realized we’d need to deal with before we can board the flight we already booked to Greece this spring.

The good news is that the U.S. government allows its citizens to add up to 72 blank pages to their passports. The bad news is that they make doing so an unnecessarily ridiculous ass-ache.

We originally planned to take care of this when we returned to the States in March. We’re spending an entire month in New York City, which is more than enough time to deal with simple administrative things like this. Or so we thought.

According to the U.S. State Department website it takes 4-6 weeks to add new passport pages. That’s more time than we’ll have. For an extra $60 per passport we can request expedited processing, but that only speeds things up from a snail’s pace to a crawl. It still takes three weeks, and that cuts things a bit too close for our comfort.

Ahh, the possibilities.

Ahh, the possibilities.

If you’re really short on time, like we are, you can request an appointment at a passport agency and, if deemed worthy, have pages added in 8 days. That sounds okay, but then the agency does the most ludicrous thing imaginable: it snail-mails your passport back to you.

Now that’s a stupid procedure under normal circumstances, but it’s even worse for us. We won’t be at an address in New York where we can accept mail, and having it sent to our permanent address in Texas just kills time we won’t really have.

Our only option was to beg the agency for the right to pick up our passports in person when they’re ready, a privilege they apparently offer but reserve “for life or death emergencies and immediate travel.” 

It all seems a tad excessive for something as simple as adding pages to a book. And indeed it is.

On a whim we checked to see how long it would take to do all of this at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. The answer: one freaking hour. That’s right, you can add pages to your U.S. passport in Bangkok about 191 times quicker than the fastest time possible when applying within the U.S.

Mural outside the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok – 180 Years of Friendship

Mural outside the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok – 180 Years of Friendship

For icing on the cake, you don’t need to pay for expedited service in Bangkok. One hour turn around while you wait is their standard processing time. That saves us $120, and countless headaches, compared with trying to do the exact same thing back in New York.

So that’s how we spent this morning, buying 48 glorious pages of possibility. It feels like freedom.

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13 Comments on “48 New Pages of Possibility”

  1. spotlightontravel January 16, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Reblogged this on Spotlight On Travel and commented:
    Great piece on possibility… 🙂

    Like

  2. digger666 January 16, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666 and commented:
    Back in the 80s I faced a similar problem and managed to acquire the accordion addition at the embassy in Grosvenor Square. Although it seems unlikely I’ll need to avail myself of this service again, it’s comforting to know it’s still possible. Although if I want to save a trip to Vauxhall, I’d best get my skates on…

    Like

  3. sweetsound January 16, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    What a ridiculous process. Government for you.

    Like

    • Brian January 17, 2015 at 1:13 am #

      The irony is that both processes are designed by the same government. For whatever reason the U.S. makes it easier to get pages added in Bangkok (and presumably elsewhere) than in the U.S. If I had to guess, its because the presumption is that if you’re doing it overseas it’s already kind of an emergency. Most people can’t wait in Bangkok for four weeks to get their passport back. Whereas in the U.S. they can force you to plan pretty far in advance, probably because they don’t feel like spending the money for enough staff to ensure a more reasonable turn around.

      Like

      • sweetsound January 17, 2015 at 1:34 am #

        Sure, that makes some sense. It must just be frustrating when you see it happen so quickly elsewhere and know that under the right circumstances it *can* happen faster. Anyhow I’m glad you didn’t have to do it in New York!

        Like

  4. Sarah and Scott January 16, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    Holy cow. Seriously?? And we thought we had it bad trying to renew a passport from The Bahamas… Sometimes we don’t need more reasons NOT to live full-time in this country. =)

    Like

  5. The Dog's House January 16, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    Wow so it seems like a better bet to PLAN to need more pages while traveling than to do the reasonable thing and handle it when State side. Ugh

    Like

    • Brian January 17, 2015 at 1:09 am #

      Or, when getting your passport, you can request a book with extra pages. We didn’t know that was an option but it’s something we’ll do from now on.

      Like

      • Sarah and Scott January 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

        We didn’t know that either, and will do that also from now on!

        Like

  6. sandydunne January 16, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    One of the frustrating parts of travel, – the documents! They are the bane of our life. We are now used to getting them fixed up in whichever region of the world we are living in, – and, as you experienced, sometimes with surprisingly pleasant results. Aussies do a 50 page passport, – at a price that’s high but worth it for the convenience of not having to think about running out of pages for the next 10 years. I like your visa pages, – and the mural!

    Like

    • Brian January 17, 2015 at 1:08 am #

      Yeah, the murals were not only cool, they made me happy. This was only one of maybe a dozen or more panels painted by school children on the outside walls of the embassy. It was really nice to see.

      Like

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  1. 7 Things We Love About Bangkok | Everywhere Once - April 27, 2015

    […] in New York this spring thanks to government bureaucracy. The Embassy, meanwhile, handed us each 48 new pages of possibility in an hour and for less than it would have cost […]

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