What to Do If You Lose Your Passport AbroadAnnie Erling Gofus - Mar 06 2023
Losing your passport is a travel nightmare, but getting a new one is a straightforward process.
On his way out the door for a flight from Israel to Austria, Roman Zelichenko, the co-founder and CEO of LaborLess, realized he couldn’t find his passport. Zelichenko’s first reaction was denial. “I kept envisioning that I would find it in just a minute,” he says. “I would keep going back to where I thought I saw it last, fully expecting it to be there, and almost not even reacting emotionally when it wasn’t.”
Eventually, reality began to sink in. “I’m going to miss my flight, likely miss my conference, and, to make matters worse, lose thousands of dollars,” he says. “Suddenly I had nowhere to go. Well, nowhere to go except the nearest U.S. embassy to get a new passport.”
Losing your passport while traveling abroad is a true travel nightmare. But if you’ve lost your passport while traveling abroad, don’t panic. Sure, it can be a hassle and cost you some cash, but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s a pretty common problem for travelers.
When faced with the possibility of a lost passport, it may seem logical to immediately seek assistance from authorities. However, once a passport has been reported missing, there is no going back. It is crucial to ensure with absolute certainty that the document is lost before beginning the process, as officials will invalidate the existing passport over the phone.
Zelichenko’s family pitched in with his passport search. “Everyone at home was also frantically helping me look,” he says. “But when I finally noticed everyone else stop looking, reality dawned on me.”
Here are the steps you should take if you lose your passport while traveling or living in another country.
Call the Nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate
For those traveling abroad, the loss of a passport can be a harrowing experience. However, in the event of such a mishap, it is crucial to act with immediacy and inform the appropriate authorities. This entails contacting a U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as possible to report the incident. Contact information for the various U.S. embassies and consulates can be easily obtained from the Department of State’s country-specific information page on their official website.
“The first thing I looked up was what to do if I lost my passport while abroad,” Zelichenko says. “My research yielded two results: apply for a new, regular passport at a U.S. embassy in whatever country I was in, or, if I had to travel immediately, apply for an emergency passport.”
Zelichenko was instructed by the embassy to log into a specific site during a set block of time to view emergency passport appointment time slots for the next day. The process varies from embassy to embassy; check online or call the embassy to speak with a consular officer.
When speaking with a consular officer, it is crucial to disclose if your passport was stolen. Furthermore, it is important to inform the officer of your departure date, particularly if it is imminent, to determine whether you require a limited validity emergency passport or a full validity passport. This information is crucial in ensuring that you are properly documented and can travel safely and smoothly.
It is important to note that consulates or embassies are unable to issue passports during weekends or holidays, with the exception of emergency situations that involve a threat to life or death.
File a Police Report for a Stolen Passport
In the event of being a victim of a crime, it is essential to inform a consular officer as soon as possible to receive appropriate assistance.
While a police report is not a mandatory requirement, it can be beneficial in validating the circumstances of a lost or stolen passport. It is highly recommended to report any such incidents to the local police in the country where the loss or theft occurred. However, if obtaining a police report would result in missed flights or unreasonable travel delays, you can skip this step. The emphasis is on ensuring your safety and expedient travel.
In the event of a lost or stolen passport, it is necessary to submit a statement that details the circumstances surrounding the incident with your passport application. The appropriate form for this purpose is the DS-64, which is provided by the U.S. Department of State.
What You’ll Need to Replace Your Passport
The procedure for obtaining a replacement passport varies depending on your current location and travel plans upon discovering the loss of your passport.
“The process for me was actually, surprisingly easy,” Zelichenko says. “The U.S. Department of State recently launched a new passport appointment booking system, quite literally the day before, so I was able to go to the DOS website and sign up for an appointment using an online form. Once the appointment was confirmed, I received an email confirmation with instructions on what to do and bring with me. I proceeded to print out the necessary government forms and fill them out.”
To receive a replacement, certain documents must be brought along with you. Here is what you’ll need:
- Passport photo
- Identification, such as your driver's license
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate or photocopy of your missing passport
- Travel itinerary if you’re traveling imminently
- Police report, if available
Prior to or during your visit to the consulate, it is mandatory to complete two forms. The first form is a standard application for a U.S. passport, and the second form is a statement that serves to invalidate your lost or stolen passport, thereby preventing unauthorized usage.
Here are the two forms you’ll need:
After completing and submitting the requisite forms, it is crucial to bear in mind that your passport will become invalid. Therefore, even if you later locate your previously misplaced passport, it cannot be used, and you must still apply for a new one.
Fees for a Replacement Passport
Unfortunately, you will be required to pay the regular fee for your replacement passport. However, in certain extraordinary circumstances, you will not be asked to pay a fee. Those circumstances are if the individual applying for the passport has been subjected to a severe crime or the passport applicant has been affected by a disaster (an act of terrorism, natural disaster, etc.).
In cases where the applicant is unable to obtain funds to pay for the passport fee before proceeding with their travel plans, a waiver of the fee may be granted, and a limited-validity passport will be issued. Upon the individual's return to the United States, a replacement passport with full validity can be requested, and the standard fee will be levied.
The good news is that if your Global Entry was linked to your former passport, you are not required to re-apply for the program or pay the associated fees. Once you obtain your new passport, simply access the Global Entry system to update it with the new passport number. Similarly, if you use the widely used and less expensive Mobile Passport Control app, you must also update the application with the new passport information.
Review Your Travel Plan While You Wait
Regrettably, international travel is impossible without a passport. Renewing a passport within the United States typically takes four to six weeks. However, if you need to renew your passport overseas to make an urgent flight, the wait time may be considerably shorter if you apply for an emergency passport.
“While the U.S. Embassy here in Israel typically takes about two months to issue regular passports to U.S. citizens in Israel,” Zelichenko says, “for those who need to travel ASAP, there is an emergency passport service.”
If you have imminent travel plans back to the U.S., you will be given an emergency passport that will usually be ready within 24 hours. Alternatively, obtaining a new full-validity passport can take several days, depending on the country you're in, as it must be sent from the U.S.
For Zelichenko, the entire process was quick. “I came by the next day to pick it up, and thanked the U.S. embassy workers on my way out for keeping the embassy safe and running smoothly.”
So, two days after making his appointment with the embassy, Zelichenko picked up his emergency passport, which turned out to be a fun shade of purple. “I'm kind of glad I went through this just to be able to have a purple U.S. passport,” he says.
Although adult replacement passports usually have a 10-year validity period and minors' passports are valid for five years, if you obtain a limited-validity emergency passport because you have immediate travel plans, you are encouraged to exchange it for a full-validity passport upon your return to the U.S.
It's important to note that certain countries, such as France, may not accept emergency passports due to the absence of an electronic data chip that is typically found in a standard passport. Therefore, it’s crucial to plan your travel accordingly and verify the entry requirements for each country you plan to visit.
“The feeling I had when I finally held my passport and stepped out of the embassy was freedom,” Zelichenko says. “Freedom of choice to leave. In a sense, that had been stripped, and it was a strange, sometimes scary feeling.”
Zelichenko’s lost passport saga had a happy ending, but what can you do to prepare for this worst-case scenario?
How to Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario
Travel experts say you should bring a few photocopies of your passport, plus a digital backup saved on your phone when you're traveling. It's smart to stash them in different spots, like one in your bag, one at your hotel, and one on your person. Having various photo IDs can speed up the process, but if you're without one, no need to stress. Officials can search for you in their system regardless.
If you're someone who frequently travels or lives abroad, signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) can also be incredibly helpful, especially if you find yourself in need of a last-minute passport. This program is designed to provide assistance from the Department of State in case of an emergency. When you register with STEP, you add details about your trip (travel dates, destinations, and points of contact) so embassies and consulates where you’ll be traveling can better assist you in an emergency.
If you work in corporate human resources, consider sharing this information with your employees who are being transferred abroad. One never knows when such information might come in handy. Similarly, if you are an individual working overseas and have lost your passport, it's recommended that you contact your employer, as they may have connections with service providers who can offer on-ground assistance.
And remember, while losing your passport can be a hassle, luckily, it's not the end of the world!