If you’re a foreigner, the single most important document in your world is your visa/and or passport. That’s what gives you the right to stay in Malta – and if things go wrong – this is what gives Maltese officials the right to kick you out of Malta – and maybe even the rest of Europe permanently.
An expired passport is as bad as an expired visa or no passport at all. So at least six months before your passport expires, you must renew it. If you live in Malta, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you go to the American Embassy in Malta to renew your passport. The bad news: you go to the American Embassy in Malta to renew your passport.
No, that wasn’t a big cut-and-paste error. It is good news that you can renew your passport here in Malta. I believe that in some countries, you can’t renew your passport except in your country of origin. But the bad news is that the embassy is minimally staffed (except for tons of security guards) and it can take two or three trips back and forth from the embassy until your application is accepted. That’s what happened to me. One time, I didn’t have enough money to pay for the passport; the fee had gone up and I thought it cost less than it did. The next time I went, I was turned away because the passport staff decided to take the afternoon off without telling anyone–not even the guard downstairs.
So benefit from my experience. Here is a list of what you should do and bring so that maybe you can get away with only one trip to the American Embassy in Malta to renew your passport:
1. Look up the hours and call before to make sure the passport department will be there.
2. While you’re at it, ask how much it costs to renew your passport. You never know when the fee will go up. Right now, it’s about 55 Euros or over 65 USD. I paid with cash and that’s the best way, I think.
3. If you bring someone with you who is not an American citizen, be prepared that he/she will not be able to even enter the building. Yes, that’s true. The security guard will only admit Americans into the embassy.
4. Bring two passport-size photos with you. You can easily have these taken at photo shops around Malta.
5. When you enter the American Embassy in Malta, it will feel like you’re entering a prison and it will look like one. You will have to go through two sets of security and metal detectors–one when you enter the building and one when you enter the second floor where the passport office is located. As you enter the building, you will have to leave your cell (mobile) phone and your bag, coat, etc. You will only be allowed to bring with you just what you need to apply for the passport. The security guard will give you a receipt for your things.
6. It will take you about 15 minutes to sit down at a table and fill out an application for renewing your passport.
7. Be prepared that the embassy will take your old passport. So it’s a good idea to copy or scan anything you may need from it for ID purposes. This is especially true if you have a Maltese resident certificate glued in your passport.
8. Ask the embassy staff what to do if you must travel abroad in an emergency. It will take about two weeks (they say 10 business days) to process your application. (I must say that it did take that amount of time and no longer.) The passport staff will contact you by phone when your passport is ready.
You yourself will have to pick up the passport. They won’t mail it to you and they won’t let anyone pick it up in your place.
Getting your American passport renewed is a necessary pain in Malta and probably everywhere else in the world. But when you get it, it’s good for another ten years. Oh, by the way, if you get to the passport window and you know people are there because you hear laughter and conversation–but they don’t come to serve you, go outside and tell the security guard and he’ll call them from the next room and tell them to get off their lazy American Embassy butts. It’s true–I did it and it worked.
Ilene Springer lives in Malta and is author of An-American-in-Malta.com.