You’re traveling abroad, enjoying a much-needed vacation or getting that last contract signed by your client overseas. But a moment of sheer terror sets in the instant you return to your hotel and realize your U.S. issued passport is gone.
It’s a traveler’s worst nightmare, but if it happens to you, there’s no reason to panic. In most cases, lost or stolen passports can be replaced quickly. In fact, it’s one of the most common problems embassies face across the globe.
Here’s what to do if you lose your passport abroad.
1. Contact the nearest U.S embassy or consulate.
Once you’re done searching for your passport, you’ll need to report your lost or stolen passport immediately. Contact information can be found on the Department of State’s country-specific website page.
Be sure to let the consular officer know if you’ve been the victim of a crime, and when you’re planning to leave the country. If it’s very soon, you will need a limited validity emergency passport.
2. If the passport was stolen, file a police report.
Contact local authorities and file the report, which, while not required, can help confirm that you are a victim. Don’t take this step if doing so would interfere with your immediate travel plans.
3. Take a new passport photo.
Before heading to the embassy or consulate, find a place where you can get the photo taken so you can speed up the replacement process.
4. Fill out a passport application.
You must complete a standard application form as well as a statement regarding the circumstances of the loss or theft. These steps will ensure your passport is invalidated, preventing anyone else from using it to travel or commit identity theft.
5. Go to the embassy or consulate to get the new passport.
Be sure to bring with you the photo, application and statement, along with your travel itinerary, some type of identification (such as a driver’s license) and proof of U.S. citizenship, if available (birth certificate or passport photocopy). If you obtained a police report, submit that as well.
6. Be prepared for the cost.
Unless you’ve been the victim of a serious crime or disaster, you’ll need to pay the standard passport replacement fee – $140 for minors 16 and under and $170 for adults. This may be in addition to service fees, consulate fees, new photo fees and more. If you have immediate plans to return to the U.S., you’ll typically be issued an emergency passport within one business day.
Additionally, the passport you receive while abroad will be temporary – only valid for one year. With your limited validity passport you’ll also get a letter from the Embassy/Consulate and it’s very important that you keep this letter. Once you’re back in the US, you should apply for a standard passport as soon as possible, but keep in mind that standard passports (that are valid for 10 years) usually take four to eight weeks to be issued. Thankfully, if you don’t have that much time until your next trip, expedited passport services are available.
How to Avoid This Nightmare
Create a travel emergency “kit” that includes legible photocopies of your passport, an extra passport photo, and valid photo ID. Additionally, lock your passport in a hotel safe whenever possible. But, if you must carry it with you invest in a secure money belt. Lastly, avoid stuffing your passport into a back pocket, a backpack or a purse left hanging on a restaurant chair – all of these are easy targets for thieves.
If you find yourself in need of help with your passport – whether it be expedited replacement or renewal, contact Swift Passport Services. We’re here to make the passport process less stressful.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.