expat life

Renewing Your Passport at the US Embassy in Seoul

So after I returned home from the Philippines, I was graced with a Monday off from work that wasn’t a national holiday. Seizing upon this incredibly rare opportunity in which I was free while government buildings were open, I went to the post office, bank, and–after noticing my passport filling up with stamps–the US Embassy.

The embassy is NOT open on weekends and stops letting folks in at 3PM. You can always submit your passport an application via a courier service, but I happened to have a day off and decided to save myself the extra money.

Before you can even mosey on up there, you have to make an appointment online. If you are running late (like I was because I never learn my lesson when it comes to Seoul traffic), give the embassy a phone call and chances are you’ll still be let in if they’re not busy: 02-397-4114

Next, you’ll use the online passport wizard to fill out an application. Print this out and bring it with you, along with a US 5cm x 5cm passport photo. (This is NOT the same size as Korean passport photos!) If you don’t have one on you, fear not. There’s a machine in the embassy that takes both won and dollars. You need to bring bills in 5 and 1 denomination because it does NOT give change. The cashier behind the plexiglass can help you out if you’ve forgotten and only have a 10, but it’ll waste your time..!

Gwanghwamun on the purple line is the closest subway stop; just go out exit 2 and follow traffic. The embassy is by a fire station. Click for a map of the embassy. Alternatively, you can show this address to a taxi driver:

미국대사관

서울특별시 종로구
세종대로
188
Head for the ugly green overhang and follow it to the US Embassy!

Head for the ugly green overhang and follow it to the US Embassy!

Once there, you do not need to stand in line! To the left of the queue there is a special lane you can take. Show your documents and passport (you didn’t forget it, did you!?) to the person behind the window. They’ll unlock the door and you go inside, at which point cell phones, MP3 players, laptops, cameras, etc are confiscated until you leave.
In the waiting area, grab a number from the little machine with a green button. While you wait, be sure to fill out a return postage slip for when your passport is mailed back. These are to the right of the passport photo machine.
Once your number is called, the agent will check your documents, hand you a receipt, and shoosh you to the cashier. You can pay in won, US dollars, or by credit card. I paid $110 for the big 52 extra page passport book. Now to play the waiting game…
If you have kids in tow, there is a nursing station, bathroom, and play area inside too, so don’t fret!
UPDATE August 13,2014
I received my passport via mail 8 business days after I left it at the embassy. I also had to pay 8,000 won to the postman upon receiving it, so make sure you’ll be around when it’s delivered. My old passport was returned as well, with a big ‘CANCELLED’ stamp in the front page and holes punched in the cover.