Monday, September 20, 2010

American Government Bureaucracy in Hong Kong

I do not like to complain on the blog, but I can’t help myself in this situation. One of my “bucket list” goals was to fill my current passport before it expires. I have successfully filled it in three years, so it is time for new pages. Erik has had pages added to his passport on several occasions and always raved about the efficient service at the Consulate. Previously, you booked an appointment online, went to the Consulate, and came out 45 minutes later with new pages. It was a free service. I booked my appointment, showed up and was informed it would cost US$82, and I could not get the new pages while I waited but must return the same day between 3-4:00. I was completely flabbergasted!

The insane part of this situation is that an entirely new passport only costs US$70! Adding pages to your existing passport involves sewing 6 pieces of paper down a four inch seam. This process cannot take more than 10 minutes. In Hong Kong, you can have a whole suit custom made in 12 hours for less than US$82! It is infuriating, because most people, like me, will not want a new passport since the existing one holds valid and necessary visas. A new passport would require carrying both the old one and the new one. It seems American government bureaucracy has made its way to Hong Kong.

The Consulate is not in a convenient location, as it is situated up a tall hill with no subway stop nearby. Yesterday, we had a typhoon #3. I waited for a taxi for 30 minutes with no success so had to walk. I was completely soaked, to the extent that my “new” passport got wet inside my purse!

From the Consulate’s website:

Why is the government charging me such a high fee to add passport pages, something previously provided for free?

The cost of service study found that adding visa pages to an existing passport book requires nearly the same resources as producing a new passport book. The study found that the cost of producing the pages, placing them in the book in a secure manner by trained personnel, and completing the required security checks costs the U.S. Government US$82.48. The Department will charge US$82 for this service.

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