Surviving the Loss of a Passport
No matter how well you prepare, any number of things can go wrong on a trip—things you simply cannot account for beforehand. Think about all that can go wrong while traveling. One thing that really sets people on edge is losing something valuable, by mistake or by theft. At the top of that list is a passport, arguably the most important document anyone carries while traveling.
Losing a passport should be avoided at all costs. If it happens, keep the following in mind to help you be better prepared and minimize possible travel delays:
Contact the authorities.
If you’re a victim of a crime and your passport is stolen, contact the local authorities immediately. Having an official police report on file will help explain the “how” and “why” of your missing passport. If it’s simply a case of losing the passport, bypass the above and go to the nearest U.S. Embassy, where you’ll want to connect with someone in the Consular Section; be prepared to fill out forms and make a sworn statement offering a full explanation as to why your passport is no longer in your possession. Knowing where the U.S. embassies are wherever you’re traveling is good information to have available ahead of time, but hotel staff and local police could also point you in the right direction. At http://travel.state.gov, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs shares a variety of information on reporting lost passports, locating U.S. embassies, and more.
Prove who you are.
Unless you have friends in high-level places, re-entry into the United States requires a valid passport; to get a replacement passport, you’ll have to prove who you are. This sounds simple enough, but if you’ve had everything stolen how do you prove your identity? One of the best ways is make copies of your passport, travel itineraries, and other identifications, and put them in a safe location, separate from your originals. Leaving copies of these documents with friends or family back home is also smart, as they could help by sending you things when you’re working with the local authorities and embassy staff. If you’re traveling as a part of an organized tour, your group leader may also provide this type of service; be sure to ask. Remember: Copies cannot be used as official travel documents. But they could speed up the process of getting a replacement passport issued.
The consular staff at the embassy will do their best to replace your lost or stolen passport as quickly as possible, but it will take some time—especially if you’re unable to provide all information required to complete the process. U.S. embassies have normal operating hours. (Most will not issue replacement passports on the weekends or holidays, although there are usually after-hours duty officers available to help U.S. citizens abroad with life or death emergencies.) The process will take time, but the quicker you can provide everything they ask for, the quicker you will receive a new passport and be on your way.
Your replacement passport is normally valid for a full ten years for adults (five years for minors), but if urgent plans don’t allow you to wait in one place for a long time—your return flight is imminent, or you’re continuing travel to other countries as a part of a group—a temporary passport could be issued. Once you return home, this temporary passport needs to be replaced with a full-validity passport. It’s also important to remember that no matter the type of passport issued, the normal fees will be charged to the applicant for receipt of a replacement; applicants unable to pay the fee will be asked to provide names of people they feel would be able to help them financially. Having access to money to pay for your new passport is important!
Safe (and smart) travels!
Written by: The original version of this article is by Mark Yontz, a freelance writer from Urbandale, Iowa.