I made the run to Shanghai the other day, for the purpose of renewing my passport. I’ve had the old one for 10 years and even had to add pages to it. It has 16 paper visas in it (all for China) and 21 entry and exit stamps, mostly from the US and China but also for Thailand and Hong Kong. I can’t claim to be a “world traveler” but when it comes to being on the move in China… I am certainly well versed in the details of Sino-American transit.
So this is how I applied for a new passport:
First, I set up an appointment on line. This is new change that has come about in the last few years and pretty much everything needs an appointment now. Note that you need to print the appointment page and take it with you. So, I sent up an appointment through the US Consulate website and while I was there downloaded the application for a new passport. There is an online application application where you fill in the blanks and the site will generate a nicely printable application with all your information typed into the blanks… but I couldn’t get that to work.. So, download and print for me. Besides the application you also need a 2”by2” passport photo, your old passport, and of course money (the current fee is $110 USD for an adult passport renewal).
Now that I had all my “stuff” ready, I bought a train ticket on line and early Monday morning off I went. I took the metro from my house to the train station. This meant switching from line two to line one at the city center. The whole commute only takes about 45 minutes unless you are in the middle of rush hour in which case you may have to wait for the second or third train before you can squeeze on. Once arriving at the train station I showed my old withered passport to the ticket agent, who typed in my number and printed out 2 tickets (there and back again).
Leaving Nanjing at 10am was really just me playing it safe. The train ride to Shanghai only takes an hour and a half. My appointment was for 1:30 in the afternoon but I wanted to make sure to get there with plenty of time to spare and figured I would have lunch before heading to the consulate.
Sure enough the train ride was quick and easy, arriving in the sweltering heat of Shanghai just before noon. I hopped a taxi to Nanjing West Road (the US Consulate is on the 8th floor of Westgate Plaza if anyone is curious) which costs about 15RMB (about $3USD). I got a sandwich and a coffee at the shopping center across the street. While eating, I jumped the Wifi at Costa Coffee and was able to chat with my wife for a little while before I had to make my way back across the road. This was of great importance because you have to leave phones and all digital devices at the security booth when you enter the consulate offices. Up to the 8th floor I went and straight to the front of a very long line (hey, I am a US national and it is the US consulate). Here I had to show the print out of my appointment which they check off on their list before letting me in the door.
I turned in my digital items (smart phone, ipad, and camera) at the front desk and then I got patted down while the rest of my bag got X-rayed. After clearing security I made my way to US Citizen Services, which is a small office that caters to the needs of we Expats living in China. Usually there is a bit of a wait but this trip was the exception. I got my number from the machine and it was immediately called by the lady behind the window. All in all I spent less than 30 minutes in the consulate.
Being that everything was taken care of so quickly, I headed straight back to Shanghai Railroad Station and changed my tickets to an earlier departure. Making a run to Shanghai like this one is always tiring but this particular trip went exceptionally smooth! I hope when I go back to pick up my shiny new passport in a few weeks things go just as well!