Last Friday, my family went to the US Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica for the seemingly hundredth time. As an experienced US Embassy visitor now, I know the ins and outs of making your visit quick, efficient, and effective. If you count visiting while pregnant, toting along a toddler & in the company of a non-US citizen extra “expert” points, then I suppose I’ve made rank!
Before even considering going to the US Embassy in San José, call and check to see if you need an appointment for services. Chances are, you do. Driving all the way to the Embassy only to be told that your case requires a previous appointment will be disappointing at best.
As anyone who’s visited Costa Rica should know, plan ahead when you’re going anywhere important. You’re destined to run into traffic jams, and sometimes severe jams depending on the highway situations or accidents on the roadway. I’d advise adding 40 minutes of travel time to the expected “average” travel time that it would take any given day to reach the Embassy. Better safe than sorry, and the folks at the Embassy don’t give out grace tokens for late appointments.
Dress simply. Once you’re admitted into security after possibly waiting in line, you’ll be asked to remove the same articles of clothing and accessories as in airport security PLUS your eye glasses. If you use contact lenses, this is the day to put them in. Leave your cell phones, jackets, nail clippers, and pretty much everything but the bare essentials at home. It’ll make security a little less of a hassle. Expect the routine wand search too. It’s gonna happen, trust me.
If your aim is to update/replace/renew your passport, be sure to swing around the back of security when you enter the building. All your forms are waiting for you just inside. What a quick trip, right?
For most of us, the trip to the embassy won’t be as easy. Expect lines, even if you’ve got appointments, but do know that holding a US passport will get you the red carpet treatment as you enter the doors to the main offices ahead of non-citizens. There is only one women’s and one men’s restroom in the facility for public use. Thankfully, they’re kept fairly tidy. Keep this in mind.
Last, but not least, if you are processing a passport application or other document requiring passport-sized photos, there is a photo booth inside the US Embassy. It isn’t necessarily the most economical option and there may be long lines, but you will be guaranteed to receive photos meeting US govt. standards. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had “passport” photos taken elsewhere that didn’t meet the standards and had to have them retaken. If you’ve got the time to possibly wait in a long line, then the photo booth is ideal.
Hope this makes your next trip to the U.S. Embassy smooth sailing!