Well, it has finally happened! The Traveling Chemist needs a NEW passport. No, my old passport hasn’t expired. In fact, there are still two (2) years left in its ‘life’. The problem is that I am running out of passport pages needed for visa stamps (more on this later). As I have done twice before, I simply attempted to add new pages into my passport book. No problem – – – or so I thought! I head off to my local Post Office, ask for the official form to add pages and then mail in my passport. Problem: the form was OLD and gave an incorrect address PLUS the form incorrectly stated that there was no fee for adding new pages to a passport. In fact, the fee is now $82.00. So – after ten days of waiting – my passport is returned in the mail with no pages and a form for submitting it again but this time to a different mailing address. So, after paying the $82.00 USD fee along with a $60.00 “Expedited Service” fee, I mail off the passport a second time – to the correct address! Sadly, however, my passport was returned to me yet again with NO EXTRA PAGES ADDED! A form letter stated that my passport was ‘damaged’ and hence no further pages could be added. Now what to do?? With time running out, I head to the local Department of State office in downtown Houston (what I should have done the first time!) and plead (beg) for additional pages. The clerk politely informed me that since there was a small tear along the spine of the passport book, they indeed were no longer able to add any more pages and my ONLY option was to request a whole new passport book! Sooooooooo, after paying $170 USD ($110.00 for the new passport and $60.00 for Expedite Service), I hand over my old passport and I am assured the new book will be mailed to me in no more than one week’s time. I must admit, I went to the Department of State office with some trepidation, expecting terribly looooong lines of people along with a long wait. However, I was most pleased to report there were no lines at all and that the clerks were pleasant and helpful. And – most importantly – I did indeed receive my new passport in the US mail in exactly one week time!
Why suddenly all this fuss, you may ask? Well, the country I hope to visit next month insists on having four (4) contiguous pages in a traveler’s passport book in order for the consulate to issue a visa. Since my old passport only had three blank pages available, well, what else could I do but try and add more pages. And THAT is what led to this mess! At any rate, I finally have my new passport (complete with electronic data chip embedded inside the front cover and in the larger edition format with 48 pages!!). For one week, my new passport was in the consulate of the country to which I hope to travel next month awaiting issuance of my visa (along with two 2-inch sized color pictures of yours truly with my shirt collar buttoned up to my neck, no logos on my shirt and no necklace around my neck …. all as mandated by the consulate’s curious rules!). I now have my visa and so the road is clear for my next trip abroad. Until then ….