Once a decade, an event comes along that you can’t miss…
No, really, you can’t miss it. So many problems if you do. Despite the typical bureaucracy found in most embassies, I’m happy to report things are straightforward for the most part.
A quick disclaimer: the official embassy site is over at bogota.usembassy.gov, and nothing here should be taken as official advice, yadda yadda yadda.
Step one: make sure you have everything
If you fit the most common case of renewing, you can walk right in between 8am and 9:30am, Monday to Friday, without needing an appointment. (This ‘common case’: your current passport must have been issued within the past 15 years, and must be in the same name as the previous one or with proof of name change. If you were 16 or younger in your most recent passport, or if your passport has been damaged, you’ll need to make an appointment.)
What to bring:
- (As of my visit) $110 USD, the Colombian peso equivalent, or a US-based debit or credit card to pay for the passport.
- Your undamaged passport
- A photocopy of your passport
- Another 15,000 pesos for passport delivery via DHL
- Your address to have the new passport delivered to you (a phone number is also requested)
- A 2″ x 2″ passport photo against a white background (you can get these made in minutes at several places across the street from the entrance)
- A secondary ID (e.g. drivers license, state ID card) – this serves as your deposit for the visitors badge.
Step two: get to the embassy
While there are plenty of buses that ply Avenida El Dorado’s expressway-like road, the Quinta Paredes Transmilenio stop is the main one. It’s part of the K line (Calle 26), and buses J6, K6, K43, K54,G43, H54, K16, B16 all stop here. You can also navigate there via GPS coordinates (4.637342, -74.096325), What 3 Words (unroll.transmit.daisy), or the old-school address, Calle 24 Bis #48-2 a 48-98, Bogota.
Step three: get into the embassy
With at least three gates and easy-to-overlook signs, you’re forgiven if you’re more than a little confused. Coming from the Transmilenio, the first gate you’ll see is actually for staff, official state visitors, or the like. Us mere mortals seeking their services need to keep walking – keep the fence to your right and turn right once you get to the corner. In time, you’ll see the shops offering photos and photocopies. Keep your eyes peeled for the exit-only turnstile – a bit before that is the gate for American Citizen Services (often abbreviated to ACS).
Once at the gate, the security guard will write some info from your passport in their logbook, then open the door for you. Walk into the first building to the right, where you’ll surrender your phone and ID for a green plastic fob and a visitor’s badge before going through a metal detector. Exit that building and walk 50 meters to the actual embassy building. Pass through another metal detector, then look left for the office.
Step four: the usual bureaucratic rigmarole
Grab a ticket near the DHL booth and start filling out the form. You may not need an appointment, but you’re not the only person needing a new passport. While your wait time will vary, I was in and out within an hour – just long enough to make me wish I had brought a book with me. My old passport was stamped ‘cancelled’ and some holes punched into it before being returned to me – all the fun times we’ve had together won’t be forgotten that easily.
Step five: arrange for shipping at the DHL booth
The DHL booth is conveniently there by the entrance to connect you to your new passport. As of my visit, 15,000 pesos paid for the express service. It’s best to have your address written out, and you will need to know your ZIP code. This is not-so-common knowledge, so ask your landlord or hotel staff before venturing out.
Step six: wait
Officially it can take a few weeks. Once your new passport is back at the embassy, you should get an e-mail stating that much. From there, it’s just a matter of a couple days for DHL to deliver it – be sure to let the front desk or doorman know.
A couple of notes
- Getting photos and photocopies around the area is no problem. I paid 10,000 pesos for a set of 6 passport-sized photos – taken, printed, and done in less than 10 minutes.
- It didn’t sound possible to pick up the passport at the embassy. While I didn’t push on the details, the only pick-up option presented was from DHL’s office near the Bogota International Airport. (I didn’t confirm the location, but a quick Google search looks to be this location, along Avenida El Dorado, about 5.3km northwest of the embassy.)
No idea where I’ll be when I need to renew again, but since it’s a decade down the road I’ll cross that bridge when we get there =)