Skip to main content

Tips for Visiting the U.S. Embassy in London

I started the process of getting a new passport back in November (I ran out of pages in my old passport...first world problems) and got notification in late January that it was ready for collection. Normally it doesn't take this long, but apparently I forgot to pay them. Details, details.

Given I had upcoming travel to Germany in February, I decided to delay picking it up and risk not having anywhere for passport control to stamp my passport. Fortunately that all went well. When you receive a letter for the US Embassy that you're passport is ready, they "encourage" you to use their courier, DX. This involves a not very cheap additional cost and when you schedule a pick up, you get an 8am-6pm time window. Seriously! They must have learned this from the people the cable companies.

Knowing first hand how underwhelming the service from the courier is, I decided to show up at the Embassy on Wednesday to pick up my new passport. I was quickly turned away by a crotchety old woman at the door. "No appointment? You're not getting in!"

"But I'm American"

"Tough" she says.

Ok, maybe I can make an appointment. Navigating the Embassy website is a chore on its own. Basically they try to make it as hard as possible to book an appointment for non-emergency services so that you have to use the courier. I suspect they're in cahoots with each other.

Alas, I found a page where you can book an appointment! I have no idea how I found it, but if you ever need to book an appointment with ANY U.S. Embassy, use this page. Fan-freaking-tastic! I was able to get an appointment two days later; certainly not what I was expecting.

The new Embassy is really swanky. And despite what Trump and his followers believe, this was not an Obama-era project. In fact, Bush II was in charge then. According to the Embassy itself:
Beginning in 2008 when we announced the purchase of a site in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth, this is a process that will produce a modern, welcoming, safe and energy efficient embassy for the 21st century.
Here's the best part (and a rebut to the biggest lie Trump has told about the project):
The project has been funded entirely by the proceeds of the sale of other U.S. Government properties in London, not through appropriated funds.
The "sails" design on the outside of the building is supposed to catch the afternoon sun. Ironic isn't it?

Ok, so I head back on Friday morning, turn up at the door with my appointment confirmation, and the same crotchety woman checks my name off the list and welcomes me in her ever polite manner:

"Do you have a laptop?"

"Of course I do, I'm headed to work."

"You can't bring it in" she says. "It says so on your appointment."

I showed her my confirmation and asked her where it says so. Crickets. "Well where can I leave it?" I say.

"You can go back to the train station or there's a coffee shop around the corner."

In case you need to go, the coffee shop is the green dot.

WTF! I had a laptop the first time I went to the Embassy, but I knew she wasn't going to have any of it. I walked to the coffee shop and yes, they'll hold it for you, for £10. Oh this surely is some kind of scam. I had no choice.

As you enter, you're literally NEVER asked for ID. Not at the entrance, not while going through airport style security, not even at the check-in desk upstairs. That seems kind of strange to me.

Anyway, while you're not allowed to bring in a laptop, you ARE allowed to take pictures. So, here are a couple from the second floor, where you go for Consular services.

This is where you wait for your number to be called. You then go to the windows on the right for service.

The view of the Thames is pretty spectacular, even on a grey day.

I only waited for about 5 minutes and was able to collect my new passport. Phew! I can now travel again. In summary, here are my tips for working with the Embassy:
  1. Book an appointment
  2. Don't bring a laptop
  3. Don't argue with the woman at the entrance
  4. Enjoy the view
The people inside were extremely friendly and helpful. They told me exactly what to do about my visa and other things I need to update (you get a new passport number). Essentially, I'll need to carry both my old and new passports whenever I travel. Fair enough! Hopefully I don't have to go back anytime soon. Though the kids' passports expire in 2020. I wonder if Ms. Grumpy Pants will still be working there.


Popular posts from this blog

A 103 Minute Gelato Tour of London

My friend Eva got into town yesterday and I happened to mention a few weeks ago about the amazing gelato tour that Beth and I did back in September 2016. Now, if you know Eva, she's a massive fan of gelato, and she's vegan, and each of the stops on the gelato tour had vegan flavors. And she can eat...A LOT!

Since I didn't have a whole lot to do at work yesterday, we decided to make our own little gelato tour, hitting my three favorite stops from the five stop tour Beth and I did.

We took the bus from St. Paul's to Savoy and began to walk to our first stop. Wait, what's that in bright orange up on the right? OMG! It's a big groups of Reese's employees giving out free peanut butter eggs! I so wanted one of their jackets and hats, but settled for a silly picture.

One we went to our first stop, Gelatorino in Covent Garden. This was the last stop on the tour Beth and it's authentically Italian. It remind me so much of all of the gelatorias we went to in Tus…

Race Recap: London Winter Run

Back in August when we signed up for the London Winter Run 10K, it was sunny and warm. Perhaps the race organizers do this intentionally so that people don't think about how freaking cold it can get in the depths of winter in London. Between the winds and the temps, it was a pretty brutal morning for a race with temps around 37ºF / 3ºC and winds at a gusty 12mph. However, in central London anywhere near River Thames, the winds are often much higher and race day was no exception.

The route through central London is likely what attracted 16,449 runners.

The race begins at Trafalgar Square, famous for often being the center of political demonstrations and anti-war protests.

The route heads east past the Savoy Hotel and London School of Economics, out to the Bank of England before circling back past St. Paul's Cathedral.

From there, the route heads back west to the finish, passing the London Stock Exchange and Somerset House. In the last, downhill straightaway, we passed Horse Gu…

Bruges: Canals, Cobbles & Beer

The kids are on break this week for February half term (basically a one week break in the middle of each trimester) so we headed out on our next family adventure to Bruges, Belgium. This time we decided to take the Eurostar which made for a comfortable, quick journey. By quick, I mean the Eurostar bit. From home to St. Pancras to Brussels to Bruges took 6 hours all in, but there was minimal complaining from the kids so I'll count that as a win.

Per usual, Beth had pretty much everything planned out. We tend to plan too many activities so this time Beth let the kids vote on what they wanted to do and she built the itinerary around that. They got to do what they enjoyed and Beth and I got to do some things on our own without them.

TUESDAY When we arrived in Bruges, I made everyone walk to the Airbnb so that we could see the city a bit and get our bearings. Along the way we got a good feel for what the city was known for: canals and beautiful cobbled streets.

After struggling a bit …