Just Added Pages to My 2 Year Old Passport

My current passport is a couple of years old and it was down to three blank pages. After I got back from Brazil I realized that I didn’t have much upcoming international travel, it was a great time to get pages added to my passport.

The State Department lists processing times and says that if you don’t pay for expedited service it will take 4-6 weeks. There’s no way I can be without my passport for six weeks, so I opted into the extra cost processing, which they still say will take 2-3 weeks.

In fact, I had my passport back in about 9 days, including mailing the passport both directions. So that was better than expected.

The cost to do this was exorbitant:

  • $82 to have pages added
  • $60 expedite fee
  • $12.72 to have my passport returned via overnight delivery

And that’s not counting the cost to send the passport and form to the government. You mail it in to a Post Office Box, so you can’t FedEx it, I used postal express mail for the second time this year (the first being for my Brazilian Visa, since that’s what they require). I don’t remember a time I used US Postal Service Express Mail previously.

It used to be that some US embassy locations would add pages for free, but that’ll often entail waiting while abroad and it’s not really want I want to deal with during precious time traveling internationally. I don’t know if any still do this.

Current law requires that the State Department estimates processing costs in order to pass those costs on to passport holders. That actually seems misguided to me.

  • They estimate their own costs, which strikes me a conflict of interest
  • Charging people whatever costs they incur hardly serves to incentivize efficiency, the longer it takes them to accomplish their tasks the more money they charge, that would seem to have it backwards
  • Expedite fees also encourage inefficiencies, citizens have to pay more to be treated reasonably
  • Since it’s a legal requirement to have a valid passport for international travel, ‘use fees’ seem misplaced, citizens can’t really be dubbed consumers in the usual sense who have an option to consume or not consume a given service

Others may and likely will, of course, disagree! But paying over $150 to continue to use my existing passport stings.

The required form is one page, just has you list identifying information (name, social security number, date and place of birth, phone number, address, current passport information and occupation).

You have a choice between having them add 24 page and having them add 48 pages. At my current use rate I’d certainly run through all 24 pages long before my passport expires, in fact I may run through all 48 additional pages though my guess Is that roughly that will be the number of additional pages that I need.

But since the price is the same to add 24 or 48, it seemed like a no-brainer. I’d ask for 48 pages, since otherwise I’d have to send the passport back and pay another $150 or so (or whatever they choose to charge in the future!). I do note, though, that adding 48 pages makes for a thick passport book indeed!

I made color copies of my full submission including passport, wrote ‘expedite’ on the envelope I was mailing in (an odd requirement since I was submitting the paperwork to the specific address for expediting as well as paying the expedite fee), and off it went.

I feel much better now that passport is back in hand.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I just got pages added when I was traveling in Europe. I went to the US Embassy in Athens and paid the $82 and waited about 40 minutes and I had my passport back. I was really surprised wen they said they do it while I wait but the lady said it wasn’t a good idea to travel without a passport so they give those priority.

  2. It’s not that embassies used to do it free because they were nice, it is because up until 2 summers ago it actually was free. Period. Now it’s $80. Fees went up mid-August 2010.

  3. Also, note that when you originally order your passport you have the option to have a regular one or one that comes with extra pages already.

  4. When adding pages abroad, you really don’t have to wait too long. It’s done while you wait there. As far as I know, all embassies still do this. I’ve added pages abroad twice since 2006.

  5. I just did this relatively recently too, and got the 48 pages instead of 24. Now my passport book won’t even close, it’s ridiculously thick.

    So after this, we’re SOL if we need more pages? I guess it’s almost as expensive to just get a new passport anyway as it is to add pages. Ridiculous fees!!

  6. @sr, that sounds right. I had pages added while in the Consulate in Hong Kong back in 2009. They did it while I waited and I don’t remember paying anything.

  7. I added pages at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, making an appointment online ahead of time. The whole thing took maybe 30 minutes at most, a very easy process and they were appreciative i completed the form ahead of time. You wouldn’t believe how unprepared some of the citizens are who come there.

  8. The very fact that I have to pay extra for what should be an standard gov’t service is what irritates me. It’s not like that division of DoS would disappear if nobody was asking for passports, which means in reality it should be covered by the couple thousand a month deducted from my paycheck in taxes every month….

  9. Wow I can’t believe it is that much just to add pages. They should really outsource it to a 3rd party especially they aren’t isinglass a new passport, just adding some more pages.

    The Indian Embassy in Chicago outsourced their passport functions and it is so much quicker and efficient now.

  10. I have an appointment with the consulate in Vancouver on Monday to add pages to my book. It was SIMPLE to make the appointment online, and the woman I spoke to on the phone was MORE than friendly and assured me that barring special circumstances (evacuation, etc) I would have my book back within an hour. Also, you need to pay an expedite fee at a passport office in the US, but outside of the US there is no expedite fee charged.

  11. I did add the pages about 3 years ago when it was free. Since I was mailing the envelope on Fri I just used regular certified mail (about $2). I did not pay the expedite fee. My passport was back in about a week (!) by US Express mail. I guess that DoS did this in a real hurry because the new pages were added upside-down…

  12. In all of my worldy travels over the years, none of my 3 passports had/have a single stamp in them.

    I’m actually pretty bummed about that fact.

  13. My fiance got 2 inserts put in her passport while abroad, it was done same day. At first she wasn’t sure if they’d do two 24 page inserts at once, but the clerk understood since the passport was 12 months old.

    It closes well, but I can see how if they attach them too close to the binding it wouldn’t.

  14. My girlfriend needed extra pages, it made more sense to get a new “Jumbo” passport than to bother w/ extra pages, for $25 or 30 more you could have gotten 16 more pages than what you got now. Just makes more sense $$ wise to get a new passport than to get pages added.

  15. It seems like you should be able to request more than the 52 pages when you get your passport initially.

  16. My passport was expiring in 3 years, so i elected to renew + get the 48 extra pages, instead of just add pages. might be a good idea for those who need pages and their passports are expiring soon….

  17. I wish Cdn passports have a 10 year expiry so we can have your problem. It appears easier to add pages than renew.

  18. I just added 24 pages to my eight year old passport (which did not have one empty box). It would have been smarter to just get a new one but my vanity kept me with the first. Those stamps and visas are badges of pride!

  19. This is really helpful information! Instead of mailing it off, I’ll wait until I am in Europe and save the extra fees…

  20. Sad face: my passport expires in next year. My well worn companion full of exotic stamps from four African Countries, most of Europe and the several Middle East countries will be retired. Had extra pages added at the 6 year mark.

    Oh well, think I’ll renew early and break my new one in on my first trip to Thailand in December.

  21. Make sure to specifically ask for the double page addition. I was told that it was “not advertised” but available by request. I was going to just renew and get the double pages but I had many years left on the current one so the agent suggested I add double pages and save a few bucks.

  22. In an NPR interview, the director of the passport agency strongly reccomended getting extra pages on renewal as there is no additional cost to do so. Congress provides no funding for passport services and they are the ones that require the agency to charge fees that cover costs. Her explanation of the process to add pages did seem to justify the fees involved. It also explained why there is no extra fee to start with more pages. Apparently the difficulty is in taking the passport apart without damaging existing visas, etc.

  23. @Paul: the pages are just sown in, with no take apart necessary. Had mine added just before they (PS) were going to charge. That was a no-brainer that just required a little pre-planning —–

  24. I too had to renew my 2 year old passport a few weeks ago having just 2 pages left. Since I’m not traveling until end of June I figured I’d save on fees and send it in without expediting. Ran in to the same FedEx issue of not being able to send to a PO Box so i sent it in via post office priority mail. Got my passport back in under 2 weeks. Was very surprised by the quick turnaround. At first I thought they only added 24 pages because the passport didn’t look much thicker than it did before sending it in. Someone did a great neat job adding 2 24 page addins.

  25. There are many things wrong with the pricing of USA passports, and the $82 extra page fee is one of them. The other really egregious charge is for children’s passports, which last only 5 years and require a personal visit to a processing location (usually a post office), even for renewal, for which they charge an extra fee for.

    As I’ve discussed on flyertalk, my wife was actually cheated out of an “extra-page” passport the last time because the State Dept was revamping the process and they simply didn’t honor requests for extra pages. But no big deal: extra pages were free, so she could get them later.

    But then they decided one day that it would now be $82 for the extra pages. We complained to the State Dept that the fee should be waived, and even got our Congressional office involved, but no dice. It was their way or the highway (well, as long as the highway didn’t go to Canada).

    My wife actually opted for a new passport because she had less than 5 years left in her old one. Indeed, I don’t understand why anyone would get extra pages unless they had valuable multi-year visas that they would lose with a new passport. Like my wife lost her 10-year Chile visa, which I now think costs $160. She made a bet that she wouldn’t be entering Chile through SCL in the next 4 years (if you enter the country any other way, no visa necessary).

    All this is ridiculous, but that’s gov’t for you.

  26. You know that if you live in a large enough US city that has a passport agency, you can actually just go there and get extra pages (for $82) but get it back the same day. No mailing, no hassle. Quite painless.

  27. Caution: If you only have a few pages left, and you need to get a visa, you may need to add more pages sooner than you think. This happened to me a few months ago when I needed an India visa. They needed two visa pages (the 3-4 pages in the back of the book could not be used for the visa).

  28. @iahphx pretty sure that your wife can bring along her old passport if travelling to SCL to continue using her multi year visa until it expires.

  29. Gary, you just saved my whole trip.

    I totally forgot to check how many pages my visa portion of the passport had left. OMG, only one.

    I fly to South Africa Monday night. Thank goodness I was able to get an appointment at the passport office Monday 8am. Otherwise bye-bye safari.

    I owe you one!

    Thanks!

  30. I got 2 sets of extra pages at the US Embassy in Singapore. They take one business day. No issue for me since I live in Singapore.

  31. I actually work for State abroad, so let me give a few comments/suggestions here:

    1. We don’t like having to charge for the extra pages either, but, as some of you have pointed out, this charge is congressionally mandated, as Congress stipulates that passport (and visa) fees be self-sufficient, i.e. completely fee supported.

    2. A related point, to those of you who say the fee (at least the $82) is exorbitant: It may be true that this is higher than it needs to be if it were just people who lived/are based in the US who were requesting and using the service, but it’s not. As many of you noted, this service is also available at embassies and consulates abroad, and the cost of doing business at many of those installations (due to either the high cost of anything in places like Oslo or due to security concerns like in Karachi) drives the average cost of the adding of pages up, which is what the $82 represents. Many of you who said that our diplomatic installations abroad try to get US citizens in and out with this kind of service are right, but I of course recognize that not everyone has enough time, or wants to spend the time, at an embassy or a consulate (or is even near one) when they travel abroad.

    3. Now, for the suggestions: The suggestion of going to the passport agency is a good one, and, since I know Gary is based in the DC area, using this could have saved him at least the postage and a lot of time in an absolute sense (although perhaps more of his useful time, as he’d maybe have to wait for a while to be seen at a passport agency, whereas he only had to print and mail with the method he chose), since there is a passport agency in DC.

    4. Another suggestion: if you think there is any/any chance that you might need to add pages, simply request the 48 page passport to begin with. It is the same price as the standard 24 pager, and is chosen by just checking a different box on the application form. Also, at $105 for a new (potentially new 48 page) passport and the same expedite fee but minus the postage by going to the passport agency, it might have been worth it to just get a new passport (in potentially less time) rather than paying for the pages. However, I would understand if, in this scenario, you felt like you hadn’t gotten full use of an only-two-years-old passport, or had long-term visas in your current passport that couldn’t be cheaply or easily transferred to the new passport (or if you like your current passport picture!).

  32. Gary, why should other taxpayers subsidize you getting additional passport pages? I have no idea what it costs the State Dept to provide the service, but I’m certain that you should be the one to pay it, not me.

    The State Dept estimates the cost because they are the one who provides the service, no different than IBM estimating the cost of a computer to me or Panasonic the cost of a TV.

    Your second point assumes the gov’t works like a private corporation where the workers somehow benefit from what you are charged. Since the person putting extra pages in your passport gets paid whether the fee is $42 or $82, and the gov’t isn’t going out of business, varying the price wouldn’t affect the time to delivery except as it affects point #3.

    You wanted to jump to the front of the delivery line, so you get charged an additional fee to do so. You didn’t pay more to be treated “reasonably”, you paid more to be special.

    It is a proper user fee, in that those who want the service pay for the service. Not everyone wants or needs to travel abroad; a quick Google search finds that only 30% of Americans even have passports, with a (presumably) much smaller subset of that needing extra pages.

    The bottom line is, you needed the service, the government provided it to you quickly and efficiently, you’re just angry you had to pay for it.

  33. extra pages is funny; I needed a new passport fast because mine was full (had two years left) and went to a passport office. They did it in two days but I had checked the extra pages option…. I got a 24 page passport. Was pretty pissed and only realized it after I got home since it was such a hassle to go into the city twice for this! So they do actually give out 48 page passports at the offices expedited? I assumed they simply do not.

  34. they could charge a thousand bucks or whatever price they feel like…it’s not like there’s any other game in town…what a scam… when it should be issued for free. Perhaps paying for expedited service is different. Anyway, it is treated as if owning a passport is a privilege and not just a requirement and a hassle for travelers.

  35. I’ve always gone to the (State Department’s) San Francisco Passport Agency for anything to do with my passport (new, renewal, pages, lost.) They do it all right there and much can be done while you wait. When they’ve had to mail the passport to me, I’ve gotten it in a few days.

    I initially went there because the thought of mailing my original birth certificate somewhere made me very uncomfortable. They’re super helpful and I have never spent more than half an hour in the place. It costs what it costs and I haven’t had to do anything with it since prices all changed in 2010. This post made me wonder if it’s still the same so I checked Yelp. People still love the place. If it makes you more comfortable, you can make an appointment but I never have.

  36. The $82 fee to attach additional pages is nuts. It’s based on the COSS analysis by the Bureau of Consular Affairs in 2009, which concluded that “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 $82.48.”

    Adding pages costs as much as issuing a new passport?! That’s like a car manufacturer telling you that fixing your bumper costs as much as a new car, because of the cost of producing the bumper, attaching it to the car in a secure manner by trained personnel, and completing the required road test.

    A closer examination of the costs reveal “the
    cost of this service includes not only the pages themselves, but the employee time spent affixing the pages into a passport, endorsing the passport, and performing a quality-control check on the expanded
    passport; also the costs of trained labor, supervisors, and overhead; of performing a name check of the applicant prior to providing the service; and a share of the overall costs of no-fee emergency services provided to Americans overseas–costs incorporated into and assigned across all passport book services.”

    In particular, I don’t understand the cost of having trained personnel verifying my identity prior to adding passport pages- after all they have my original passport- hello, McFly!

    Another explanation of the costs is it’s all the overhead- allocated costs for the passport office supervisor, manager of consular affairs, costs for the embassy staff and security, etc. The other piece of the costs include ” the costs of certain emergency services provided to American citizens overseas. These include assistance to Americans who have been victims of crime or who have been arrested abroad, assistance provided after the death of a U.S. citizen, and visits to U.S. citizens in overseas prisons. These services also include organizing the evacuation of American citizens affected by war or natural disaster in a foreign country, such as victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. The estimated cost of providing such services to U.S. citizens in Fiscal Year 2009 was almost 300 million dollars.”

    Basically, I think the employee who bought the $640 toilet seats needed a new job, so they hired him over at the Bureau of Consular Affairs. As Gary said, there is no incentive for efficiency or to limit the costs in any way- in fact, the higher the costs, the more they get to charge!

    Finally @Askia- as an American abroad, I resent paying for all of the taxes going to support your lifestyle- subsidized highways, schools, and other services. Americans abroad pay taxes, but get no services, other than traditionally consular affairs. Adding service fees onto the limited services that Americans abroad get is adding injury to insult.

  37. A reminder – for all those who are space challenged – Global Entry ($100) will cut in half (approximately) the number of stamps you’ll need white space for.

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