Starting January 2016, US embassies will no longer add new pages to your US passports. If that was what you were planning to do to address your over-stamped booklet, you may be out of luck. However, there are other ways to obtain a brand-spanking new passport/emergency passport in no time. The good news is that the process is similar for both, and can even happen at the same time. So here are the steps to apply for both a new and an emergency passport for US citizens in Shanghai.
First, you need to have your valid passport with no empty pages left. The last endorsement page does not count as an empty page.
Secondly, you need an appointment through the US Consulate’s official website, http://shanghai.usembassy-china.org.cn/. Mouse over “U.S. Citizen Services” at the top and select “Make an appointment.”
NOTE: If you’re reading this article, it most likely means that you are short on time. When you are extremely short on time and you need empty passport pages immediately, it is important to get an emergency passport. This passport costs US$130 dollars and you can apply for a regular new passport at the same time (free of charge).
Getting an Emergency Appointment with the US Consulate
To get an emergency passport, skip making an appointment and instead call 021-3217-4650, then dial 1 for English, then dial 6, then dial 9 to speak to an actual human being. You should be able to reach a representative during regular business hours.
If it’s after-hours, dial 1 and then 3 to reach an emergency operator. Note, please only do this if it is absolutely an emergency, because they want to keep the lines as open as possible. If it is indeed an emergency, you need to state your situation, and the representative will advise you to arrive at the US Consulate American Citizen Services Center.
Going to the American Citizen Services Center
Either way, you will end up at the center. Note, this is not the same as the US Consulate on Huáihǎi Middle Road.
The American Citizen Services Center is at the Westgate Mall, 1038 West Nánjīng Road (南京西路1038号), on the 8th Floor.
You can take line 2 and exit from West Nánjīng Road Station. Once you arrive on the consulate floor, there will be a sign that says “Citizen Services” that points you towards a glass door with a few men in suits behind it. Right next to that entrance, there will be a huge line that is reserved for non-US citizens.
You first need to knock on that glass door and state your purpose of visit to the Shanghainese security guards in fancy suits, and show them your passport. They will let you in and you will need to turn in your electronic devices to them for safety reasons. When you are finished with the security procedures, walk to your left and enter the room for Citizen Services. There will be water machines on your right side (our tax dollars actually working for us for once), but more importantly – you have the ticket machine. Click the button that indicates whether or not you have set an appointment.
When your ticket number has been called, the lady on the other side of the counter will give you a form to fill in to apply for your emergency or regular passport. Listen carefully to her instructions because it is important to fill out the form in the right order.
After applying, you will receive your invoice slip, then you will pay for it at the cashier window that is on your right. NOTE: THEY WILL NOT ACCEPT UNION PAY. BRING A CARD THAT USES VISA OR BRING RMB IN CASH.
Getting your new US Passport
If you applied for an emergency passport, you will have to wait about an hour for the emergency passport to be finalized, and you will receive it that day. However, if you apply for a passport renewal as well as an emergency passport, the renewed passport should arrive at the consulate in about 10 business days, and you will receive an email notice from them when it is ready for pick up.
You may now use your brand spanking new emergency passport for new visas. Word of advice to you, take care of your relevant visa tasks with this emergency passport first before you go to the consulate to claim your new one (by the way, you have about 90 days to pick up the new passport after they notify you).
Remember, you only get one valid passport at a time, which means that they will hole-punch your old passport as soon as you claim your new one. You can have your current visa in your old passport, but you’ll have to get a special form that confirms it’s still valid, and you’ll have to carry both your old and new passport with you whenever you need ID. Not convenient.
It’s stressful sometimes trying to stay in China – legally, that is. But remember that just about everything you do is tied to your legal identification. So if you get that part sorted, a lot of things become so much easier for you, and every bit of the initial stress is totally worth it. Wishing you the best of luck.
And while you’re on the consulate page, don’t forget to register to vote.