Updates from the U.S. Embassy in Oslo

New passport procedures in place

usembassy

The U.S. Embassy in Oslo is located at Morgedalsveien.

MICHAEL KLEINER
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

Like most businesses affected by the pandemic, the U.S. Embassy in Oslo had to reduce staff and find ways to still provide valuable services, especially processing American passports. As with many businesses, new methods have become the new modus operandi.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Oslo held an online program, U.S. Citizens Services on March 2, featuring Whitney Wiedeman, American Citizens Services Chief, U.S. Embassy Oslo. Topics covered included passports and renewals, birth registrations, and other citizens services.

Much of the presentation focused on passports.

The COVID-19 regulations included a staff cut to 25% capacity. The already small waiting room was further limited by social distancing. The silver lining was not many people were traveling, though the embassy still had to process for the people who were. The flip side are worldwide consular operations depend on the service fees, so fewer travelers meant less income.

“Those two factors, staff and waiting room caps, forced us to scale down our operations,” said Wiedeman. “Those [COVID-19] restrictions were not as big of a deal because there weren’t that many people trying to travel and the people who did want to come in and see us, we generally had the physical capacity and physical staff. But as we all saw, the ebbs and flows of the pandemic, there were moments where there were large surges. It was much harder for people to come in.”

Usually, an in-person interview is required.

Wiedeman noted a spring 2021, New York Times report, that there were more than six-figure backlogs of people applying for passports in the United States. In Norway, there was a 40% decline in 2020, but 2021 saw a bump, from 1,500 in 2020 to 2,500 in 2021. Since the beginning of the fiscal year Oct. 1, Wiedeman has adjudicated more than 1,000 passports.

Just when the embassy started opening up more, Wiedeman contracted COVID-19 for the second time, and staffers came down with the virus, putting a “toll on our operations.”

“Many countries are still trying to dig out from their backlog,” said Wiedeman. “Now, we have the new strains, particularly in Europe, on this system because of the events happening in Ukraine. So, we’ve been busy and expect to stay that way.”

Image: Siirski / Wikipedia
The front cover of a contemporary United States
biometric passport with a chip.

The streamlining came with passport renewals. People can apply and pay online and mail the application with a stamped, self-addressed envelope (no.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/passport-services).

There’s been an increase in turnaround time.

“Most passport renewables can happen by mail,” said Wiedeman. “If you are an adult or even if you’re looking to renew the passport for your child, the system will let you book a renewal appointment for yourself, but you don’t need to do that. You can mail it to us. There are a series of questions. The last is a seven-question quiz, they’re all Yes. No. Then, there’s a link to do online payment with a credit card, ACH deposit, PayPal, or Amazon Pay. Any of those will work.

“A person who is using a DS82 form, both at an appointment with us or through our online system and comes in, that is a slot that is no longer available to the customer who needs to come in. We all still have a limited number of appointment slots.

“Just so you understand how advantageous this is. One, if you live outside of Oslo, you don’t have to come to Oslo. Two, from the moment we receive the application, it’s entered that day into the system and that day, or the next day, [staff] is dedicated to working on it.

“From the moment we receive the application, process, send it out, receive the passport from the United States, we frequently get the passport in two to four weeks. You don’t really save any time by booking an appointment. Right now, we don’t have appointment times available until the end of March. That’s about four weeks. In that time, you can mail us your DS82 and get your passport.”

 

Circumstances when one must appear in person or other services provided:

A child passport or renewal. Both parents must appear unless one parent signs a notarized statement of consent. “We will not accept the notarized appearance if through an online notary…We need some human being to see that parent before we’ll accept it.”

Settling estates in the United States of Americans who die in Norway. “This is a no-fee service that we provide…It is a labor-intensive job that takes several hours of work from our staff.”

Early stages of a program encouraging American citizens to vote in their state’s elections. This does not include local elections.

Renouncing citizenship. Forms are available online, but they then must appear in person. This has been given lower priority during the pandemic because of reduced staff.

Valid travel documents.

Student visas.

If a college student is on their first 10-year adult passport that was renewed at age 16, they can use the mail system. If it’s a five-year passport and will be their first adult passport, they must appear at the embassy.

This article originally appeared in the March 18, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.

You may also like...

%d bloggers like this: