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Passport renewal time!

Tip #1 Do not go the US Embassy website for information using your smartphone. Why? Because the mobile layout may not include some sidebar information, such as the very important fact that American citizens must make an appointment for all Consular services. The same goes for Googling the answer to your question.

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No. Don’t do this. Don’t click on these.

Instead, get on your computer and START HERE: US Citizen Services. Read every word. Then click on the link for the consular service you need. There is important info on this main page that may not be repeated elsewhere. Read every word, y’all.

“For every rule follower, there will be at least one who feels they are entitled to the exception.”

Department of State Employee

Tip #2 If you can, complete the CRBA and Passport applications online, print the PDF and take it to your appointment at the Embassy. I did this recently for my US passport renewal and it was super fast and easy.

“Folks might ask themselves why in the world the paperwork needs to be seemingly perfect to make a consular appointment run smoothly. The answer comes down to accountability: all that lovely paperwork you submit to an Embassy official is eventually sent back to Washington, where it will live forever as a record of that consular adjudication. If something goes wrong – for instance, in a worst case scenario, someone’s citizenship called into question down the line – that paperwork is crucial, in a legal sense. So, not only are you making sure you’ll be in and out of the building quickly by having all your ducks in a row, you’re helping the consular officer make the certain, correct decision under the law.”

– Department of State Employee

Tip #3 Do not bring anything with you but your supporting documents and keys. I know, I know. The website says you can bring a small purse or handbag. I took this:


…and was denied by a very chatty security guard who was more interested in my marital status than anything else. Bring nothing but documents, keys and taxi fare in your pocket. No phones, no diaper bag (yup, those get denied too), no nada.

“While these security restrictions may be excessive (and actually the guards’ interpretation of the restriction), they are, sadly, in place for a reason.”

– Department of State Employee

Tip #4 If you forget or if you absolutely must bring other items along as you are going to the Embassy, there is a small Wari shop around the corner where you can pay 500cfa for a locker to store your belongings. The manager playing video games in the back with his face buried in his hoodie does exactly not inspire confidence, but hey, what else are you going to do?

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500 cfa, if you must.

Tip #5 Take a deep breath. I know the website is frustrating. I know gathering all those documents and photos and making the right number of copies is stressful. I know the security guards make unprofessional comments in Wolof. But you know what? I don’t know of any other place in the world that I can get my American passport renewed in under two weeks. (Not expedited, people. Just regular fee in January of 2016.)

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Consular crew, thank you for all you do. We honestly don’t understand or even know the half of it. But we appreciate your service and will do our best to follow the rules and make these things go smoothly for everyone. 

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