I've been traveling for quite awhile and realized when I got to South Korea that I was almost out of passport pages. I'd heard that I could get a new passport abroad but was under the impression that this was only an option if my passport had been stolen. I was quite nervous about the process since I know it usually takes 4-6 weeks to get your passport back in the States and I didn't want my time to be up in Korea and end up passport-less! I logged onto the embassy website, filled out the application and made and appointment.
On the date of my appointment, it was quite a hectic trip to get there. I had the address written down in English, not Korean so my taxi driver dropped me at the wrong annex. I then had to take a second taxi to the location, which is about 2 hours from my house via public transit. When I pulled up the taxi was surrounded by 5 police officers, pretty intimidating, so I quickly paid the driver and got out to see more tons of police and several large coach style police busses lined up on the street. Security is high at the U.S. embassy in Korea to say the least.
You have to turn off your phone and check it in along with any electric car keys that you may have so I did that. Once I was finally inside, I was pleased to find a very clean and organized office with amazing customer service. Almost forgot what that felt like. I applied for both a 52 page passport book and a passport card. I was told that the 52-page book was not an option and that it would take only two weeks to receive the book and an additional two weeks to receive the card. I signed up for home delivery and when I got home went back online to sign up for e-mail updates on the status of my application.
This option made the whole process more stressful since they sent me some confusing messages. I received e-mail updates stating my passport would be delivered a week early, yet no one ever called me to organize the delivery. When I checked again there was a message stating there was no record of my application. Then after checking again a fourth time it stated that the passport would be delivered on a date that had already passed.
Finally two weeks after my application I got a final message stating that my passport book was available for pick up because I was not available when they tried to deliver to the address on my application or call me. Both the phone number and the address were wrong though. So I quickly made another appointment to pick up the book. The night before I was set to go a car drove into the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, so I had no idea what to expect the day of. Would there be even more security than the first time?
Luckily this trip was much smoother and it was business at usual the day after the accident. I checked in and only had to wait for about four people that were ahead of me. When she called me up I discovered that I fortuitously did get a 52-page passport and my passport card at the same time. The passport card is great if you travel in the Caribbean, Canada or Mexico frequently because you can show the card instead of using up pages in your book.
Although the e-mail system was a little out of wack I'm glad that I applied for my passport while abroad. I'm still not convinced it would have been faster if I'd done it in the U.S. Now I'm once again able to travel freely and can stop begging the customs agents to conserve space when they're stamping my book.