On Thursday the 12th of February, James, Elisabeth and I trekked to Mayfair to the US Embassy in order to register Elisabeth’s US citizenship and apply for her US passport. Once we got to the embassy, the whole process was fairly straightforward and quick, but we found that the information that we got from the embassy and on their website was not very helpful. Some of the information was incomplete or misleading and some of it was just incorrect. So I wanted to post this in the hopes that it might help other people in the future.
One of the things that the embassy thoroughly communicates is that mobile phones or any electronic devices are not allowed inside the embassy. They suggest leaving such things at left luggage facilities at one of the major train stations (Victoria being the closest). And I suppose if you drive to the embassy, you could leave mobile phones in your car. (Where you would park, I have no idea.) Since we weren’t thrilled with the thought of leaving our phones and James’ laptop at a left luggage facility and we don’t have a car (we wouldn’t drive into town anyway) and we weren’t about to leave our phones at home, James ended up leaving early and bringing our phones to his office in Shoreditch. When we got to the embassy, we discovered that actually we could have left our phones at security. That was a frustrating discovery to say the least. James probably wouldn’t have been able to leave his laptop at security, but we wouldn’t have needed to traverse the city separately sans mobile phones.
One of the things we were told we needed to provide was proof of our plans to travel on March 8th. Since we hadn’t thought to print out our e-ticket confirmation before the day of the appointment and don’t have a functioning printer at home, another reason for James’ early morning sprint to his office was to use his office printer. When we got to the embassy we discovered that they provide both computers and printers. So both reasons for James making the trip to his office before the appointment were both not necessary after all. Grrr. In the end, they didn’t even ask to see the proof of travel. It’s probably still wise to bring proof of travel along, but it’s good to know that if necessary, it’s possible to print things at the embassy.
Another source of stress for us that morning was that we both forgot to bring our cheque book to pay the fee. James spent 15 minutes running around Mayfair looking for a cash machine while Elisabeth and I waited outside the embassy. NB: If you even find yourself in Mayfair needing cash, just go straight to Oxford Street. There apparently are no cash machines in Mayfair. Even the Post Office in Grosvenor Street doesn’t have one. It seems that the limosine drivers just hold the residents’ cash for them. In any case, when we got to the payment window we found out that they don’t take cheques anyway, but they do take cash (pounds or dollars) and they do take credit cards. Had we known credit cards were a acceptable form of payment, James wouldn’t have wasted all that time running around looking for cash and again, we would have been spared some stress.
Finally, the instructions tell you to bring along a Special Delivery envelope to have the passport mailed back to you. I stopped at the post office on the way to the appointment to get a Special Delivery envelope, so we did have that with us. Then the first person who processed our application told us to go down to the lobby to buy a courier envelope which we did. It turns out that since we had the Special Delivery envelope, the courier envelope was redundant. Thankfully we were able to get a refund for the courier envelope which was a good thing because it cost £14.50 compared to £5.05 for the Special Delivery envelope.
While the morning could have been much less stressful than it was, ultimately we were successful in getting Elisabeth registered as a US citizen and applying for her passport. And her passport arrived in the post two days ago so we now have that in hand. We’re very much looking forward to getting her first stamp in her passport on March 8th!