How To Renew a US Passport in Rome
Because my passport would only have one month on it when we returned to Italy from our visit to the states, I needed to renew it here in Italy. Be aware that each country requires a certain number of months still remaining on your passport before you leave the country. If you need to renew your passport while living in Italy, here are a few tips that helped me:
First of all, go to the passport renewal pages of the U.S. Embassy website at: http://www.usembassy.it/cons/acs/passport-new.htm Read through the information carefully.
Here you can find which office you’ll need to use. Previously it was possible to renew your passport at any Embassy, regardless of where you lived, but now they seem to be pretty serious about having you renew at the appropriate office.
I was under the jurisdiction of the Rome Embassy, and the website STRONGLY encouraged mail renewals rather than in person renewals. If you are planning on an in-person renewal, check to see what the hours are…specifically if there are special hours for renewals, and if appointments can me made or are necessary.
If you are renewing in person, there will be picture booths either in the Embassy or in the vicinity where you can have your passport photos made. Because I renewed by mail, I don’t know if these are the same machines that the Italians use for their photo ID’s, but I do know that the required size for the U.S. passport is slightly different from the Italian ID photos. It may be that the Embassy will accept the Italian size photos, but I would check with the Embassy to be sure.
I had some difficulty in getting the correct size photos made here in Italy. I went to the local photo shop with the photo size translated in to centimeters. The photos must be 2”X 2”, or 5.08cm X 5.08 cm. It will be necessary to print out the renewal form from the Embassy website and take it with you if you have your photos taken by a photographer…..because your head and shoulders must be a specific size in the photo.
Luckily for me, the son of the shop owner had just bought a new digital camera, and he was able to set the size of the photos to the correct size, and to make sure that I was sitting in the right place so that the proportions were correct. It cost me €5.50 for two passport size photos.
Once I had the photos and the renewal form completed, I called the Rome Embassy as instructed in order to get the current cost of the renewal. The cost is set in U.S. dollars, and varies with the exchange rate. The rate is adjusted every quarter. Once again, the website gave specific hours during which I could call for this information.
Next I had to go to the bank to buy an “assegno circolare”, which is like a certified check. The money is paid up front, and as the man at the Embassy stressed to me…….DO NOT sign the check yourself!!! The check must be signed by the bank clerk, and normally the bank should be familiar with this type of check.
Now I was ready to mail everything to the Embassy. I had to put my old passport, the completed renewal form, my two photos and the assegno circolare into an envelope. I also had to include a self-addressed stamped envelope so that the new passport could be mailed back to me. I had the clerk at the Post Office put all the documents and both envelopes on the scale and charge me for the postage shown, so that I would be sure to have enough postage for the return.
Once the stamps were affixed to the self-addressed envelope, I added it to everything else and sealed the envelope. I sent it registered mail so that I would have a record of when it was sent, and also when it was received in Rome.
My new passport, along with the old one, now stamped “ CANCELLED” arrived in about two weeks. My new passport doesn’t have the elective residency visa affixed, since it was still in the old passport. Although I don’t think I need this visa anymore, I did make a copy of that page and keep it with my passport.
I also IMMEDIATELY made copies of my passport, and scanned it into my computer. Having a copy of my passport proved invaluable when my purse was stolen with my passport inside.
In general I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. My only other experience with the American Embassy in Rome had NOT been a good one, so I was prepared for difficulty, apathy, rudeness, ignorance and slow service. What I got was friendly, knowledgeable and prompt service every step of the way. I highly recommend the mail-in renewal process for anyone needing to renew through the Rome office.