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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

No more trips to Vietnam

Well, last week was a big week for me. I decided to leave FCG and return to work for Coca-Cola Enterprises. I had been talking with the people I know at CCE since late last year about working with them and they finally had a position open up a couple of weeks ago. I'm excited to go back there and work on the business side of the company versus the IT side. I start on Apri l16.

I will be working in the Revenue Management Department as the Forecasting & Planning Manager. Essentially I will be the business process owner, facilitator, and coordinator of all forecasting and planning activities within the company. That involves working with all of the regional and corporate business units to ensure that the tools and related processes are thoroughly integrated across finance, revenue management, supply chain, logistics and sales. I will also be responsible for managing all of the support tools and solutions, so I still get to be a Project Manager.

This is a big job with lots …

Another School Year Has Begun

September marked the fifth year of schooling in the UK for the Kriebel kids. Five years already. They went back to school a couple weeks ago and while I'm always excited to see what a new year bring to them, it makes me a bit sad to see them growing so quickly and beginning to leave the nest.

HENRY

Believe it or not, Henry has started year 7 (or middle school for my American friends). Seriously! WTF! How is he already so grown up?

He's moved to a new school, which means making new friends, finding his way around what must look a massive place. He has settled in well. He meets a friend everyone morning (at the wine shop because that's how his friends identify where they live) and they walk to school together. Henry attends the same school as Elizabeth, so they see each other several times a day and often walk home together. Having her there has surely helped him settle in.

Each school has new rules. It takes adjustment. It takes learning. It takes courage. And Henry has sho…

Fort William Marathon: The Best Kept Secret in Racing

Earlier this year I had been training hard for the Limassol Marathon, through ice and sleet and snow, only to have what I considered a disappointing race. I struggled to recover mentally, but I knew I had another race on the horizon...the Fort William Marathon. This event was my first marathon back in July 2015, shortly after the family made the move to London. The main difference this time, though, was that we're three kids lighter with Michael and the twins all back in the US for some time with their friends.

I hadn't thought much about running this race again until Chris, the race organizer, reached out to me to offer me a complimentary spot. This was incredibly generous and given how much I liked the race the first time, there was no way I was going to refuse. Granted, Chris made this offer well before the race in Cyprus.

The posts-Limassol blues stuck around for much longer than I'd expected. I was really down on myself, questioning why I put in the effort and the tr…