How to replace an American passport in Paris - Ann Mah | Ann Mah

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How to replace an American passport in Paris

By Ann | July 14, 2013

passport 1

After my passport was stolen a few weeks ago, I went to the U.S. Embassy in Paris to replace it. (Though my husband is a Foreign Service Officer, his assignment in Paris ended last year, and I visited as an ordinary American citizen.) A lot of people are intimidated by the American Embassy — and it is a bit of a fortress — so I thought I’d share a few tips to smooth your path in case you need to urgently replace your passport in Paris. Learn from my mistakes, friends!

After you discover the loss of your passport:

Report it to the French police. This will probably take hours, but it helps guard against passport fraud and/or identity theft. Also, I found the gendarmes extremely kind, sympathetic (and one of them was pretty cute).

Visit the U.S. Embassy in Paris website, specifically the page U.S. passport services and read the information carefully. I don’t recommend phoning the Embassy switchboard as the website is extremely helpful and offers all the information you need. Bottom line: if your passport was lost or stolen, you can apply for an emergency replacement in person, without an appointment, by showing up at the Consular Section of the US Embassy, Monday-Friday, 8.30 am sharp. (Note: The embassy is open during regular business hours, but closed on French and American holidays.)

What to bring to the embassy:

Bring your forms, completed in advance. Go to the U.S. passport services page. (Really, I cannot emphasize this enough.) It will tell you which documents you need and give links to the forms, which you can print and complete in advance. You can also fill out and print the forms on computers at the embassy, but the system there is not reliable (I had trouble printing, for example) and I got yelled at when I asked for help.

Bring your wallet. You will be charged for your new passport. They take Euros, US dollars, and credit cards, including American Express.

Bring lots of loose change — specifically one- or two-Euro coins. If you are applying for an emergency passport, you can take the photos at the embassy, but the photo booth only accepts change and on the day of my visit the change machine was out of service. Loose change is also handy in case you want to buy a snack or coffee from the vending machine.

Bring something to read to pass the time — a book or magazine. There will be a lot of waiting.

Note: If you are applying for a regular (not an emergency) replacement passport: 

You cannot take your passport photos at the embassy. Instead, take them before your visit — I recommend the day before. Photo Madeleine — a five-minute walk from the embassy (41 rue Boissy d’Anglas, 8e) — shoots photos that meet the required regulations. Also, bring a pre-paid Colissimo envelope. The embassy will ask you for this so they can send your new passport back to you. You can buy the envelopes at the Concorde métro station. The embassy also sells them via vending machine, but they cost €25, the vending machine only takes change, and the change machine was out of service the day of my visit.

Your visit to U.S. Embassy Paris

Make sure to arrive at 8.30 am, or slightly earlier. You’ll wait in line to go through security. You cannot bring your cell phone, i-Pad, laptop, or any electronic equipment into the building, but you can check them at the guard hut. I also had to check my Kindle, which made me very sad as it was my only form of entertainment. Don’t bring a Kindle.

Be prepared to spend several hours at the embassy. I arrived at 8.30 am and didn’t leave until after 12 noon. The lines are long, especially on a Monday, when everyone who has lost their passport over the weekend applies for a new one. The good news is, I found my fellow passport theft victims to be extremely friendly and chatty and their stories of being robbed on trains and in markets were fascinating cautionary tales. I also thought the Embassy personnel was also very professional and polite (except for the woman who got testy with me about the printer).

Don’t expect to receive your passport immediately. If your flight is scheduled for the same day, change it to the next. I saw a woman in tears because she hadn’t changed her flight –even though she’d read the website, (which clearly states “we cannot guarantee that we can issue a passport in time for same-day travel”) she didn’t believe it. Believe it.

There is a clean bathroom.

If you have a question, ask a security guard. There are a few of them wandering around the waiting area. I found them all very friendly and helpful.

With any luck, your emergency passport will be ready the same (or next) day and you’ll be able to go home, a smarter traveler with a good story under your belt.

Topics: Uncategorized, Voyages | 14 Comments »

14 Responses to “How to replace an American passport in Paris”

  1. Lindy Says:
    July 14th, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Well done for getting through the palaver; and passing on the tips

  2. CK Says:
    July 14th, 2013 at 11:30 am

    For U.S. citizens who are visiting a country for a long period (or who live overseas), it’s a good idea to register with the American Citizen Services office at the Consular Section of the Embassy or Consulate nearest you. This can help make an emergency passport renewal somewhat quicker — but it can also be useful in case of other emergencies such as natural disasters. Sorry you got yelled at, Ann!

  3. Parisbreakfast Says:
    July 14th, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Excellent information!
    Thanks so much for sharing

  4. Robin Says:
    July 14th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    What a great article Ann. My only question after reading it is this: what is a “pre-paid Colissimo envelope”? You said you can buy it at the Concorde metro station. It sounds like some kind of stationary and I am totally confused about where in the Concorde metro station you would buy such a thing. The rest of it is self explanatory. Thanks so much for taking the time to write all this down – very helpful. So sorry you were yelled at but at least you were treated professionally and kindly by the others.

  5. Bob Says:
    July 14th, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Thanks for the tips, Ann! Hope you never have to go through that again! What did you do without your Kindle?

  6. Voie de Vie Says:
    July 15th, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Well done, Ann. Although, I would have gone bonkers without reading material for 4 hours. Yikes a moley!

  7. Julie Farrar Says:
    July 15th, 2013 at 1:34 am

    Thanks for this information. I’ll save it to Evernote so I always have it on my phone (providing that isn’t stolen). A couple of years ago when in Paris for a day trip from Dijon I failed to follow some basic “smart traveller” steps that I know quite well and had my wallet stolen. Thank goodness they didn’t get my passport or my train ticket back to Dijon. And especially thanks for the heads up on the e-reader. Looking forward to your book this fall.

  8. Ann Says:
    July 15th, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Lindy — Thanks for reading! I didn’t want to be too bossy, but hope some of these tips might be helpful for others.

    CK — Excellent reminder. Thanks!

    Parisbreakfast — Thanks for stopping by, Carol!

    Robin — Colissimo is like a registered courier service. If you’re at métro Concorde (the US Embassy’s closest station), the envelopes are sold at a stand at the Place de la Concorde exit (underground). But you’ll only need to use Colissimo if you’re applying for a regular replacement passport. If it’s an emergency passport, you pick it up yourself.

  9. Ann Says:
    July 15th, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Dad — I chatted with my fellow passport victims… and I eavesdropped on other conversations!

    Voie de Vie — The absence of my Kindle was actually what inspired me to write this post!

    Julie — Thanks for reading! I hope you don’t ever have to consult this post, though! And thanks for your kind words on my book — I am very appreciative.

  10. Lindsey Says:
    July 15th, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Wow, seriously helpful information. No fun that you had to go through it but now none of us have any excuses for stumbling our way through the process should we find ourselves in the same situation.

  11. Pat Says:
    July 15th, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I had to go to the US embassy every year to renew my student visa as a foreign student and my heart beat wildly every time! The visa officers were very stern. It seems that it’s no different as a citizen?

  12. Jeanne Says:
    July 17th, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Thanks for this helpful information Ann.

  13. Cheryl Cromer Says:
    September 1st, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you! My husband just had his passport stolen at the puces in spite of being a knowledgeable and careful traveler. We had already gone to the US Embassy website and were following the instructions but your comments gave important tips that should make the experience much easier. Thanks to your advice he will be at the Embassy well before 8:30 since it not only is the day after a weekend, but also the day after a holiday, and only a paperback book and the already printed paperwork will go with him. Again thank you!

  14. Iris Says:
    June 2nd, 2014 at 2:38 am

    My daughters are in Paris for the day and moving onto Normandy to join in the ceremonies for DDay anniversary…they put their bags down for a minute while checking in the hotel. Everything gone credit cards, euro, debit, camera, most important passport
    They will be at Embassy tomorrow to start process I hope it goes smoothly.

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