US Passport Renewal in Paris

Where to do passport renewal in France - US Embassy Paris
The US Embassy, where Americans in France complete passport renewal, stands demurely behind tall trees and iron gates at the corner of the largest square in Paris.

A small insight into life for Americans in France. We are in the process of passport renewal for our 10 year US passports. In the US you would fill out a form, send it with a check in the amount of the renewal fee to the State Department, along with a new passport photo and your old passport. They mail you back your new passport. In France you fill out this same form and mail it with your passport to the US Embassy. However, the Embassy neither accepts US money in the form of a personal US bank check nor a personal check from a European bank (nor a credit card of course). You need a French bank cashier’s check (chèque de banque).

When I went to the nearest branch of my bank, HSBC, presented my bank ID card, and requested a chèck de banque in the amount of 94 €, they told me they couldn’t do that. I would need to contact my bank counselor to make arrangements. So I went home and called my counselor. The counselor never answers the phone, so you talk to the person who answers. He asked me for my name and ID number, then had me input a secret code that verifies I’m really me, and then asked what I wanted. I told him I needed a chèck de banque for 94€ to renew my passport. We discussed that it must be made out to the US Embassy. He told me that it would be ready at the branch near us on the following Saturday morning (2 business days).

On Saturday morning Brenda and I went to the bank branch and asked for our cashier’s checks. They had no record of our order. We presented our bank ID cards and personal identification in the form of passports and residence cards. We filled out forms indicating our names and checking account number, the payee and amount. The bank teller told us the checks would be ready on Wednesday (2 business days), but to call first since our order might not be ready in that amount of time.

The US, like France, is very particular about passport and ID photos. However, the rules for background, size, etc., are different. Though there are photo booths all over France for ID photos, they aren’t correct for US passports. Thus we had our photos taken at Walgreens in Spokane when we last visited the US. Dodged that bullet.

Should we ever get the cashiers checks, I think we will be ready to make application. Since we have to send in our current passports, we need to make sure we don’t need them for at least 2 weeks in the future. That means we can’t travel to other countries or even within France. We will want to send in our forms by traceable mail just in case they get lost.

Unlike in the US, where the State Department sends back your passport for free, in France we must send a self addressed prepaid envelope of a certain type with our forms so that the new passport can be returned to us. It must be a Chronopost for France, or Collissimo, or a Lettre suivie 500g size A4 only. Chronopost is the French mail system’s package delivery. Collissimo is a private delivery service affiliated with the postal system. Lettre suivie is a prepaid, trackable envelope that you can purchase at the post office. I chose lettre suivie because I found the right envelope in the post office rack, but I don’t know if it’s the best choice. Each prepaid envelope cost about $8.

The destination, the US Embassy, is within easy walking distance of our apartment, but it’s guarded like Fort Knox, and you need an appointment to enter. Only plan a visit if you need emergency passport renewal. Don’t try to take a photo either; the French guards will start blowing their whistles and all hell will break loose.


Add Yours
  1. Wally

    FedEx/DHL them and your check overnight to me (okay, okay… someone you can trust then…), I’ll send them in here in the US and when I get them back I’ll FedEx / DHL them overnight back to you…

    Meanwhile you enjoy hanging out in a street side cafes rather than Embassies and French Government offices…

    • Hugh Nelson

      Good idea, mais… Once I sent a check to the US via UPS. It cost $100. Other than that, your idea might work.

  2. Maureen

    I did try to take a photo back in 2004 and holy cow what a fiasco! I had to show those pesky police not only rushed to stop me nut made me delete, and show the
    my camera to prove that I had deleted the photos! My best to you and Brenda!

    • Hugh Nelson

      Similar experience in 2014 – I was stopped as soon as I took out the camera. Today I walked over and took a photo from the middle of Place de la Concord. Our best to you Maureen – hope all is well.

  3. Richard B. White

    Well, well, well, it seems to me, you folks went thru this crap the last time you needed to renew, perhaps a year or two ago.

    Mr. Hugh, it would seem to me a “Good Wife” would be able to get this matter resolved in short order.

    Good Luck, Sir!!! 🙂

    • Hugh Nelson

      Bonjour Richard! Most of our past travails have been with getting the French residence permit, not with renewing our US Passports. The bank is a common denominator in many of our administrative troubles, but this time the US government is also part of the problem.

  4. John Becker

    We take a photocopy of the passport with us when we travel in case the real one is lost or stolen. Never needed it though.

  5. Pauline Ostheller

    I guess you should have went to live in Hong Kong. We just went to the US Consulate ( no appointment) they took our pictures, we waited for a little bit and then we had our new passports. We did not have our old passports as they had been stolen. We also had an easy time getting a resident permit.

    • Hugh Nelson

      Bonjour Pauline! In today’s (post 9/11) world the security is probably tighter at the Consulate in Hong Kong, but in many cases there are also provisions for or special representatives for employers so they can smooth the way for employees. My guess is that if I worked for Amazon here in Paris I would not have to jump through the same hoops to renew my passport as would a retired person.

  6. Carl Swanstrom

    You mention that the US embassy “stands demurely behind tall trees” in Paris. This is about the only demure thing about the US under Trump. However, the iron gates sound very appropriate. Did we make the French pay for them? Regarding your bureaucratic nightmare, I feel your pain. I hope you and Brenda are doing well.

    • Hugh Nelson

      I receive an email this morning: “I’m sorry for the inconveniences, but we are an online banking, we don’t do cheque de banque. I invite you to make a transfer via your online banking.” Let’s see, the Embassy only accepts chèque de banque, HSBC doesn’t do chèque de banque.

  7. Linda Lunn

    Frustrating to say the least, we empathize! We changed apartments in Portugal only to find that an appointment was needed with SEF to change the address on our NHR (National Residence card) and the first available time was 2 months out….actually, should be tomorrow. And, we can’t change the drivers license address until we get the new residence card! Things are just done differently in different countries…we accept that with the fact that we chose to live here. However, sometimes the requirements get mind-boggling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.