Applying for a New UK Passport in Bangkok Thailand.
Getting An Appointment at the Trendy Building with VFS Global
The only way we could make an appointment was to email directly to BangkokHMPO@vfshelpline.com. We needed to provide 3 different dates/times when we were available between 8am and 4pm Monday to Saturday along with our first and last names. VFS Global won’t answer any questions or enter into correspondence. They sent back an email with an attachment that has the appointment time. Print that letter and take it with you or be able to access it on your phone in the lobby as it is your proof or permission to enter the Trendy Building.
I had to renew my British passport in Bangkok this week. As it was different from my last time, I thought I would share with you the steps that I took to do this. It was all very straightforward to do and I had my new passport back within three weeks. To renew your British passport, you need to first book an appointment by sending an email to BangkokHMPO@vfshelpline.com. In your email, include your first name and last name and three alternative dates and times from 8:30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday except for public holidays. You will receive an email confirming your appointment.
In the same email, they will caution you about the following advice in blogs about how to renew your passport! They suggest you check this link if applying from abroad for a new passport: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/overseas-passport-supporting-documents-group-2 By the way, if something does change, please post in the comments at the bottom of the page.
Please note two things that seem to have changed in recent months;
1) The office where you will do the renewal has moved from the 28th floor down to the 8th floor.
2) When I did my renewal, the first point of contact was a VFS desk on the ground floor (VFS is the outsource company) However, several readers have pointed out that the desk is no longer there, so just take the elevator straight up to the 8th floor.
Today (4th October 2017) I applied for a new 10-year UK passport at the ‘HM Passport Office’ on Sukhumwit Soi 13 in Bangkok. Even though my current passport is valid for another year, I’m quickly running out of pages (sound familiar?) so it needs to be replaced.
As several readers have pointed out, the place where you will renew your UK passport isn’t actually an official HM Passport Office but outsourced to a company called VFS. However, this blog is all about what you need to do to renew a UK passport in Bangkok so please indulge me if I call it a UK Passport office or something similar. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what we call it.
Applying for a new passport was actually a very straightforward procedure and I was in and out of the building within ten minutes. However, like many bureaucratic processes in Thailand, advance preparation is key. In terms of paperwork, it’s all about getting your ducks in a row so that the actual application day goes as smoothly as possible.
There are a number of online blogs that outline the process involved but none of them really go into enough detail – and I’m a details man!
Before I start, let me just point out that I haven’t picked up the new passport yet. Only when I have the new passport in my hand will it be a case of mission accomplished. So I’ll keep this blog updated right to the end of the process (including picking up the new passport and transferring visa stamps from the old passport to the new passport at Thai immigration)
But for now, we are just concerned with the passport renewal.
OK, here’s an overview of what you need to take to the passport office. Don’t worry, I’ll go into detail for each one of the six requirements later.
1) A completed application form
2) Two passport-size photographs
3) Proof of address (in English)
4) A completed credit card payment form
5) Photocopies of your current passport (every single page)
6) Your appointment letter
Side-note – this blog is getting quite a lot of readers and as a result, I’m receiving a significant number of questions on Thai immigration procedures and other UK passport services. Sorry, but I can’t answer them. You need to fire the questions at either an immigration officer or the UK passport office (VFS) in Bangkok.
This blog is just one man’s experience of applying for a UK passport in Thailand. I can’t answer questions on people’s visa re-entry stamps or whether your bank can provide you with a statement, etc, etc. You need to ask these questions to the appropriate people. Please keep this in mind.
The passport office, where you will make your application to renew a UK passport, is located on the 8th floor of The Trendy Building on Sukhumwit Soi 13 in Bangkok.
When I did my passport renewal, the office was on the 28th floor and it wasn’t a particularly busy office – at least it wasn’t at nine ‘o’ clock in the morning.
Assuming you will go by sky-train, Sukhumwit soi 13 is about half-way between BTS Asoke and BTS Nana. The walk from BTS Asoke is far more pleasant – and if you’re a little early for your appointment, there are a few decent coffee shops on the way.
Once you arrive at Soi 13, The Trendy Building is just a hundred metres or so up the soi, on the right-hand side. It’s not a particularly pleasant or welcoming building. It’s not a place where you’ll want to linger and spend more time than necessary.
Side-note – Many of the businesses on the Trendy Building’s ground floor are geared towards providing services for Thai people applying for visas to go abroad (photocopying, translation services, etc) and because a number of countries (including the UK) outsource their visa application services to offices in The Trendy Building, the lobby area can get a tad chaotic.
There are always lots of visa agents milling around, providing a relatively inexpensive service to those Thais who are too busy to come into town and apply for a foreign visa themselves. But none of these people concern us. I’m merely just painting a picture for you.
OK, let’s get back to the six requirements mentioned in the overview and take each one in turn.
1) A completed application form
OK, let’s get this form filled in! You can download and print off the application form (a four-page pdf file) at this link.
There are TEN sections to the application form and it can appear daunting at first glance, but don’t get stressed out. A number of the sections you don’t even need to bother with if it’s a straightforward renewal for a UK adult passport.
Work your way through the application form (don’t forget to use black biro ink ONLY)
Two important points to bear in mind.
In section one of the form, you need to check the box if you want the sooper-dooper 48-page passport or just stick to the standard 32-page one.
The 32-page passport is £118.51
The 48-page passport is £128.51
Both prices include a courier fee (the cost of delivering your passport from the UK to Thailand)
(I actually paid less than above for my 48-page passport but Steve got in touch in March 2019 to say there had recently been a price increase)
In section 10 of the form, you have a decision to make – whether or not you need a counter-signatory. This is when someone – a friend, a doctor or a retired army colonel (if you’re lucky enough to know one) signs the back of one of your passport photos with the following;
‘I certify that this is a true likeness of [title and full name of adult or child who is getting the passport].’
Then they sign and date the photograph.
The counter-signatory also needs to fill in section 10 of the application form for you.
You can get all the information about who qualifies as a counter-signatory at this link.
What’s interesting – and I researched this – is if you do not feel that your appearance has changed much in the last ten years (when you got your current passport) then you are free to skip section ten completely and not bother with a counter-signature. That’s certainly what it says on the official UK Government website.
Personally, I didn’t want to take the risk. So I invited a good friend for lunch (a guy who has known me for well over five years) and got him to sign one of my passport photos and complete section 10 of the application form.
Just to balance things out, Joshua from Khon Kaen got in touch at the end of October 2018 after reading this blog and going through the UK passport renewal procedure himself. Joshua said “I did NOT fill in section 10 of the application form and neither did I bother with a counter-signature. And I had no problems at all. I am now the proud owner of a new 10-year UK passport”
2) Two passport-sized photographs
The photos must measure 45 millimetres high by 35 millimetres wide (the standard size used in photo booths in the UK)
As we covered in the previous point, the first of your two photos will be signed on the reverse by a counter-signatory (if you decide to go down the counter-signature route), your second photograph will be blank.
If you have found the secret of eternal youth and your appearance hasn’t changed much in the last ten years, then BOTH of your photographs will be blank.
I got my passport photos from the photography shop in The Emporium Shopping Mall (BTS Prompong) The shop is on the third floor of the mall (not 100% sure of that) but just a couple of doors away from Boots the chemists. They were very professional in there and knew exactly what I needed. It took five minutes to take my picture and I collected the photos an hour later. I think they cost about 150 baht for a dozen.
There are of course photography shops all over the city and I’m sure getting passport-size photos done is going to be the least of your worries.
3) Proof of address (in English)
For many applicants, this part is the real pain in the ass – and I’m no exception. For example, all the utility bills to our house are addressed to my wife and the address is always in Thai.
In the end, I decided to submit three bank statements with my address clearly shown in English as part of my application, and the receiving officer was more than happy. Three bank statements were probably overkilled though. I’m sure I would have got away with just one.
Thai banks are actually very helpful here if you go in and ask for something nicely. For a small fee, any bank will usually issue you with a bank statement showing your address in English. It might cost you a hundred or perhaps a couple of hundred baht – and you may need to go back to collect it the following day – but you’ll get the job done.
Other acceptable forms of ID could include a work permit, a driving licence, a utility bill or an employment letter but be aware that anything in Thai has to be translated into English, giving you yet another hoop to jump through.
There are numerous offices on the ground floor of The Trendy Building offering translation services and I noticed one them was quoting 150 baht a page on their window, but I really have no idea how long it would take them. Personally, I wouldn’t risk messing around with getting translations done on the day of your passport renewal unless you have plenty of time to spare.
4) A credit card payment form
Cash is NOT accepted at the passport office. You will need to download and fill in the credit card payment form. It can either be your credit card or someone else’s. I used my wife’s card so she had to provide her signature on the form. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Download the form here.
Chris, an ajarn reader from Bangkok, also went through this UK passport renewal process and he says “I just want to point out that you can also pay by debit card (even one for a Thai bank account) if you don’t have, or don’t want to use a credit card”
Thanks for that Chris.
5) Photocopies of your current passport (every page)
Now this is where things start to get expensive. You need to photocopy – in colour – EVERY single page of your existing passport. For me that was a whopping 30 pages at 20 baht a copy. 600 baht! Ouch!
Once again, it’s all about getting your ducks in a row.
I had done my color photocopying a couple of weeks beforehand when I happened to be in the Sukhumwit area and I decided to use one of the photocopy shops in The Trendy Building. I figured at least these guys would know what they are doing.
That said, perhaps you can find somewhere that does colour photocopying cheaper than 20 baht a page. Good luck!
6) Your appointment letter
You have to make an appointment with the passport office in advance. You can’t just turn up uninvited. Here’s how you do it.
Send a short e-mail to BangkokHMPO@vfshelpline.com and explain that you are looking to renew a UK adult passport. Then request THREE dates.
I requested either the 4th, 5th or 6th October and I cheekily asked for a morning slot if possible (if you don’t ask, you don’t get)
I got an e-mail reply within half an hour asking me to come on 4th October at 8.50 am. The service really is excellent!
The e-mail not only confirms your appointment but gives you a lot of background information that thanks to reading this blog, you will already know.
Print off the appointment e-mail because you will need to take that with you on your application day.
Time things so you arrive at The Trendy Building about 15-20 minutes before your scheduled appointment (there’s really no point arriving any earlier)
You’ve already got all your colour photocopies, application form, proof of address etc, etc arranged in a nice folder (you have, haven’t you? Good)
Take the elevator up to the 8th floor. Go through security. Take a queue number at the desk. Finally, file your application when your number is called.
The officer checks all your application documents and gives you a ‘collection document’ (we could even refer to this as a ‘receipt’)
The officer told me that my new passport would arrive in three to four weeks, possibly even sooner. Plus of course he would give me a letter for Thai immigration to help facilitate any transfer of visa stamps.
To reiterate, the whole application process took me less than ten minutes and everything was handled courteously and professionally. I couldn’t have been more impressed and many of my friends on social media echoed the same thoughts. How rare it is in Thailand to undertake a bureaucratic process and end up thinking ‘shit, what am I going to do with the rest of the day?’
Job done. Go and have a well-earned cup of coffee.
Finally, this is the actual UK Government website where you can click through the process and go over the information again.
Have We already left the Uk looking that way now