Consulate visits in Sài Gòn
As we mentioned earlier, we both had made appointments with our consulates to put in applications for new passports. I'd love to say - here's a note for those who are thinking of potentially taking an extended traveling holiday - make sure that you've got enough blank pages for any visas that you may need on your trip. Also make sure that your passport won't approach 6 months to its expiry date during your trip - that 6 month mark is where some countries draw a line and won't let you in, effectively making your passport good for 6 months less then it's advertising itself for. I have also seen this neat idea for trying to keep pages open so you have space for visas, we will be trying that with the new passports.
Getting passports ahead of time would have been the smartest thing, but even as we ramped
up to this trip we didn't stop our normal holiday activities of leaving the country. Since we also had to send our passports out for 4 weeks to get our Russian visas, there wasn't any other period of down time that we could get new passports before we left.
Tina had her appointment first and I had mine booked for the following day. They are fairly straightforward, for Tina she handed in her paperwork and they just go over a few questions about where she's traveling such that she needs to apply overseas. When we are in the lobby of the building leaving Tina hands me her receipt and the Canadian change that she had for me to hold in my wallet. "Where's your passport?" I ask, and she tells me they've kept it. We need it to check into hotels, luckily we aren't flying, but normally you get to keep your passport until you pick up your new one since you often need it. I start to panic, Tina thinks its not an issue, but I remind her that when we both had new passports issued in China we both kept them until the new ones arrived. We went back upstairs to the Consulate, and as Tina's explaining to me that maybe it's different since times and security have changed - I can't compare since I'm not going to the US consulate for another day. Inside they explain that they need to keep her passport in order to issue a new one. I try to argue, but to Tina's point it's not my consulate, and I'm just starting to sound like a standard pushy American. They do give us copy of her passport front page and Vietnamese visa with a nice red Canadian consulate stamp and let us know that should work for any hotel. So far we haven't had any issues, and we only have one more hotel to check into before we pick up her passport, if that one becomes an issue I'll come back and add an update here.
The next day, at the US consulate, I hand in my passport and paperwork, go over to another window to pay, and then about 5 minutes later I show my receipt and they hand me my passport and say "You're new one should be here in 8 days, come back then and we'll cancel your current one." Simple and easy, they were actually surprised when we told them how the Canadians had held on to Tina's. When the Canadian consulate emailed Tina to let her know her passport was ready she replied that I had been able to keep my passport and they wrote back saying she could have kept her passport with her, just that Canada has a charge of $45 if you want to hold onto it while waiting for the new one to arrive. So in this case we saved some money due to both us and the person working at the consulate that day not knowing the process, that's actually a good thing since I would have paid that on the assumption that we needed her passport.