Renewing American Passports in Kuala Lumpur

If you live overseas full time, like we do, eventually you will have a situation where you will need to renew your passports.  They only place to renew American passports in Malaysia is in Kuala Lumpur, at the American Embassy.

We had to do this a few weeks ago and it turned into quite the adventure.

First, before we left Penang, we got ourselves a Garmin GPS.  I bought this Garmin nüvi 1350 on the third floor of Gurney Plaza, one of the shops in the middle, close to Popular bookstore.  They charged me RM 499 and promised to update my software and maps every six months for free.

We got the GPS unit because, quite frankly, KL traffic scares me.  I have been in cabs in KL and I was certain I would not be able to  navigate the streets myself.  And, as it turned out, even with the GPS unit, I got lost once.  I will say that in terms of keeping my heart rate at a reasonable level and stress level reasonably low, the RM 499 paid for itself in future healthcare costs.

We checked into our guest house and prepared ourselves to go early the next morning to the Embassy.  I had called before leaving Penang, and I found out that the Consular services section does not make appointments for American Citizen Services and that I just needed to be there between 9 and 11 in the morning to process my paperwork.  We left our guesthouse in Subang Jaya at 9 and arrived at the Embassy at 10:30!  Lesson learned.

Second lesson learned was about parking at the US Embassy.  There isn’t any parking near by.  Next time we go we’ll just take a cab.  I ended up on a side road behind the Embassy in a space that was probably not a space.  As I was parking, I wondered if I might return with the car towed or clamped.

Third lesson learned was about bringing a backpack into the Embassy.  No backpacks and no electronics allowed.  We had to put our cell phones in the backpack which they let us check in at the guard station.

Then the waiting began.  We got a number from the ticket dispensing machine.  Because we were American Citizens without an appointment we pushed the C button.  Looked like there were 7 C’s before us.  Our kids couldn’t sit still very well.  We let them play in a little corner where the bathrooms were.

To prepare you for the process, be prepared to have to wait for your number three different times.  After we were called we went to the little booth to submit the paperwork.  Thankfully I had downloaded from the American embassy website, filled in the papers, and printed the paperwork in Penang before we left.  Then we wait again.  The second time we were called up to pay the fees.  Then we wait again.  Then the final time, we get the passport back with a claim receipt.

The website says that the passports are ready two weeks from when you submit the application.  When you apply, you can give them an email address to notify you when it is ready.  Ours were ready one week later.

Everyone needed to be at the Embassy to submit the application.  For the minor child, both parents need to be there.  The website also lists other documents you need for the minor.  We had to bring her Consular Report of Birth Abroad and our original Marriage License.  Bring originals because copies, even notarized copies, cause headaches.

We got the passports back with a yellow sticky note as a claim receipt.  Anyone can go with the passport and claim receipt to pick it up, so that made things easier.  I had a friend going to KL and was willing to take 2 hours out to run this errand for me.

All in all, I think the process was fine.  Wish there was some thing for the kids to do while they were there, but we seemed to be able to keep them from annoying the crowded waiting room pretty well.