I mentioned on Facebook last month that it felt odd to not have a passport in my possession because I’d mailed it into the Osaka Consulate for renewal. Well, I’m happy to say I received my new passport book. It’s a bit different than the old one. First of all, they gave me the 52-page passport even though I only asked for the standard 28 pages. I’m guessing that’s because people renewing from outside the country are assumed to have a higher likelihood of filling it up.
Also, I wasn’t sure how they’d handle my valid visa- whether they’d just invalidate it or issue me a new one or what. They ended up just sending both passports back to me, with holes punched in the old one except for the page with my visa, complete with complimentary retro-style hanging chads!
“But David,” you might ask, “haven’t you renewed your passport before now; didn’t you know that you get to keep the old one?”
“No,” I’d answer, “I’ve never renewed my passport before.”
Even though this is now passport number three for me, it’s my first renewal. For an explanation of that math, take a look at this photo of the inside back cover of passport number two:
You can see the holes they punched in my old passport, as well as the new picture they stapled to it. The old one was issued by the Los Angeles Passport Agency, but (presumably because it was issued outside the US) the new one is issued by the United States Department of State, which bestows a benefit of cool +1.
The new passport has an RFID chip in it to enable another layer of authentication. If you look closely, you can see the icon on the front cover. Also, the front and back covers are much stiffer than before- they feel like they have stiff plastic embedded in them, which I guess is to protect the chip from bending and breaking. Aside from the outer cover, the photo and info page has moved from the inside front cover to page three.
The renewal process wasn’t too bad, but had some unusual requirements. You send in a PDF generated by their site after filling out a questionnaire on the State Department web site. The form is, of course, letter-size, but the closest paper size in Japan is A4, so I had to shrink it to print. You also need a money order for $110 denominated in USD- which, surprisingly to me, is available at the post office for the (not very) low cost of $20. They can issue postal money orders denominated in a number of foreign currencies, but the form is very tricky, and they don’t allow mistakes. For instance, there are two fields for address, one associated with your ID, and one with your residence. In my case, my ID shows my old address, so I wrote that in the field for ID, but my actual address in the address section. They made me fill out the form again with matching addresses. >:( Also, the photo size (2″x2″) required isn’t standard here, so I had to print a larger size and trim it down. Sending it in just required a pair of prepaid postal envelopes, which are easy enough to get.