Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Friday, May 6, 2016

Top Ten Mistakes to Avoid when Renewing a US Passport!

One of the biggest frustrations when renewing your passport is receiving your application back in the mail because of a mistake.  This is frustrating 1) because you've wasted precious renewal time and 2) you've wasted your precious argent on that darn Chronopost envelope.

So here is my list of the Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid when renewing your US passport:
  1. Don't use the same photo as last time - your passport photo must be different from that of your last passport, and recent. 
  2. Along the same lines, don't use a French size passport photo - it must be 2x2" or 5x5cm with a white (not grey) background. You can read more about the photo requirements here. As of today, there is only one official photographer approved by the US Embassy. It is Photo Madeleine, and they are located at 41 rue Boissy d'Anglas 75008 Paris. The current cost for US passport photos is 10€.
  3. Your passport application should be filled out on the computer.  Filling it out entirely by hand will mean a longer processing time. Do not forget to sign and date your application by hand however!
  4. Wildly different signatures. It's true that if you got your last passport at 16 and then another one at 26, your handwriting may have changed (no more hearts over your i's for example...).  But if your current signature looks too different from the signature on your previous passport (or you never signed your previous passport), your application could be refused.
  5. French or American checks are not accepted. Applications sent by mail must be paid with a chèque de banque (mandat cash are no longer accepted!); applications done in person can be paid in dollars, euros or by credit card.  
  6. Don't purchase your chèque de banque a long time in advance before you send in your application.  This is a little known fact, but the passport price in Euros is changed every few months due to exchange rate fluctuations. And if your chèque de banque does not match the current amount (even if it is for more), your application will be returned.  So you're better off checking the website for the current rate on the same day you send your passport (more instructions can be found here). 
  7. There are different prices for payment in dollars or euros, so be sure your chèque de banque is also for the euro amount. 
  8. There is no need to send your passport application via Chronopost. You can save yourself 27€ by using a normal letter (if you trust La Poste!), or a registered letter. 
  9. Don't try to get away with including a registered letter for the return however - your application will be sent back with a request to include a pre-paid, self-addressed Chronopost*.
  10. This last piece of advice is one of the most important ones - be sure to write down your Chronopost tracking number before you send off your application, and set a reminder on your phone to check it once a week (or sign-up for delivery notifications if possible).  A phenomenal amount of passport applications are returned to the Embassy each day because the Chronopost envelope was not picked up within the two week time frame.  This is (mainly) through no fault of the American - it's most often the Chronopost deliveryman who never leaves a delivery attempt note - but it means that your passport could be sitting at the Post Office without your knowledge. And then you will need to send the Embassy another Chronopost letter in order to get it back!  So keep that tracking number and check it regularly online. 
*The US Embassy used to accept pre-paid registered mail envelopes for return, but so many of them got lost and/or stolen on top of the fact that delivery notifications were rarely given out, that they eventually decided to go with the Chronopost. So even though the Chronopost is more expensive and there is still the issue of delivery notifications sometimes not being given, they have at least greatly reduced the possibility of your passport being stolen along the way.

Here's one last bonus DON'T - US Passport applications are country-specific, so do not waste your time looking at the US Passport site or the US Embassy websites for other countries. Requirements differ according to the country, and you'll only end up getting even more confused!

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Blogger Corey Frye said...

Thanks for this, it was helpful. I'm applying for my passport at the US embassy in Paris and was wondering if I needed two Chronopost envelopes or just one. Especially seeing as my local post office is trying to charge me 59€ PER envelope! I will take your advice and use a much cheaper registered letter to send the actual application.

February 6, 2017 at 11:47 AM  

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