Where to get additional US passport pages (hint: not in the US)

Stamp-happy immigration officials, US CBP among the worst, love to consume passport pages with scatter-shot stamps. And then all those countries with full-page visas.

Needing additional passport pages is a great problem to have. I saw a Lebanese man in Dubai that had a passport about 3 inches tall, bursting with sets of new pages, and the immigration officer said he had seen even bigger ones.

The US State Dept is not so flexible, typically if the passport is in good condition they allow up to 3 sets of pages added, though that is up to consular discretion, and according to my experience yesterday in San Jose, Costa Rica, those who start out with the larger US passport, which is a no-cost option during application, may only be allowed to add 2 sets over time.

My current passport is from 2009 and immediately after getting it I added 1 set of pages before the fee went from free to $82. Since then I have been begging and cajoling immigration officers the world over to conserve pages, even by stamping over other stamps. Chinese immigration officers are especially helpful in this, they seem to relish stamping over others. But I was at the last few pages and needed a new set.

The standard process is to fill out the DS-4085 form online, send everything off and wait…currently 4-6 weeks. Or pay $60 plus return shipping to expedite and wait 2-3 weeks.  It is possible to try for an appointment at a regional passport agency to get it done under 2 weeks. None of this waiting and shipping is good.

Instead, make an appointment with American Citizen Services at a diplomatic mission when you are overseas and get it done on the spot. Each embassy and consulate does things differently, most, perhaps all, have an appointment system on their official website. Additional passport pages is considered a ‘routine service’ and so an appointment is required and that can be hard to get last-minute as slots are often limited and many only take appointments on limited days.

In my case I made an appointment at the US Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica for 8 am.

US Embassy San Jose

US Embassy San Jose, Costa Rica

I arrived 8:05 due to a major traffic jam and missed my slot so had to wait 25 minutes through an assortment of characters: 3 aging hippies that had had everything stolen, a  middle-aged guy who kept not completely filling out his form, a women whose new passport had left off her middle name and was in hysterics about her upcoming trip back the US, a family in traditional religious clothing (Mennonite?) that had a new baby and had not checked the registration requirements since the prior baby five years ago, when the assumption was not yet that babies were imminent threats to the US. One poor guy was working the crowd by himself so not the most efficient operation.

Once seen I handed in my form and passport, made payment (USD or local, cash or credit) and had my passport back within 30 minutes.

Total investment: 2 hours of my time due to traffic, the $82 fee, $10 each way for taxis, and an interesting chat with the hippies. And I never had to trust the passport to the mail.

There is no requirement of residence or anything like that to visit American Citizen Services at any embassy or consulate. If they have appointments available you can book it.

If you have never visited an US embassy or consulate, or not recently, it is an eye-opening experience into the post-9/11 US security state, and an added bonus for going this route.

Rapid Travel Chai newsletter ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook ¦ Instagram

Comments

  1. One other option is to contact your US Senator or Representative. Depending upon your personal relationship with him or her or a member of their staff, that office can expedite the return of your passport or get you an appointment at a regional office when no openings previously existed. I have used this in the past to get an appointment at an American consulate abroad, so our incoming exchange student would not have to miss the first six weeks of school because of delayed paperwork from the local American school. Another reason to be actively involved in our political process!

  2. Just had more pages added in the US. Yes, more expensive, but avoided wasting time while traveling/in a more interesting place.

    Paid expedited fee and had newly enlarged passport in my hands 7 business days after I mailed it in.

  3. While I agree that if you can add the pages without a $60 fee and get it done same day this is not a bad idea, BUT in general it is cheaper to get a new passport than get extra pages:
    Extra pages $82 for 24 pages=$3.42 a page
    New Passport w/ 48 pages $110=$2.29 a page
    AND you extend the life of your passport and you’re not carrying around something like George Costanza’s wallet from Seinfeld.

    All Visas as far as I know are good still, yes, you have to bring the old passport with and if you travel somewhere on a consistent basis where you need that Visa then adding pages for convenience may be worth it… however, in general, I tell people it’s a better deal to get a new “jumbo” passport than add pages.

  4. Most interesting post I have read in blog world in quite a while. Aging hippies? Hey, I resemble that remark 😉

    Would also be interested in hearing where Arkansas Traveler is from (!)

    Dale M
    F’ville

  5. And, as much as it may be an eye opening experience to visit an American Embassy, I know that my precious travel time will probably be better spent doing things that don’t involve American bureaucracy. I need to get more pages before my next trip, I will just suck it up and get a new passport, especially now that I know that I can get one with additional pages.

  6. @Scott – this is a very good point, I did not realize that the passport execution fee does not apply if renewing and can submit the old passport. I lived for years in China where moving visas (and updating bank accounts, phone contracts, etc) was a horrible pain so I did everything to not get a new passport number. When it was free it was a no-brainer, but the $82 does sting.

    I have a number of current multi-year visas, of the ones most likely to use, Argentina, Brazil and Chile all work with bringing along the old passport, India it is recommended to transfer it to the new passport, though I have seen reports of it working in the old passport.

    For infrequent travelers or those with long gaps between trips, that are going the mail method, I see that getting new can make more sense.

    For me, though, my ego is tied up with having a giant passport, when I got my last one in 2009 I felt naked until I started filling it up.

  7. I know what you mean, my passports last 3-4 years even as the jumbos, but its the fun of filling it up and hey, you can tell your friends this is your 4th passport in 8 years. If it becomes a pain to carry, then for me it’s a problem, PLUS I refuse to give the gov’t 82 for pages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *