What to Do If You Lose Your Passport Abroad
Losing your passport in a foreign country can provoke major stress, but the good news is it doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to get back to the United States. In fact,hundreds of passports are lost or stolen each year, and it hasn’t meant the loss of U.S. citizenship for any of these people. It just means you’ll have to deal with some red tape.
You can help ease the stress of losing a passport by bringing along a second form of ID (such as a driver’s license) and a photocopy of your passport every time you travel. No matter your level of preparation, the following steps will help you get a new passport and get back to the United States, stat.
If you were the victim of a crime, file a police report.
While the odds of the police tracking down a stolen passport may be slim, filing a report with the local police department can be helpful in several ways. First, it will help prevent someone from successfully using your passport illegally. Second, it will allow you to claim the cost of replacement if you have travel insurance. And lastly, having a police report on hand will be helpful for verifying your situation when you head to the embassy. (More on this below.) That being said, don’t spend time filing a police report if doing so would make you miss an upcoming flight.
Notify a friend or family member.
If possible, it’s helpful to email, text, or call a friend or family member to notify them of your situation. They may be able to assist you later in the process by faxing scans of your identification, for example, if you don’t happen to have a second form of ID with you. You might also ask them to notify the State Department’s Overseas Citizen Services so that officials are aware of your situation. This step isn’t essential, but it can be helpful.
Get in touch with the closest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Whether you were the victim of a crime or you simply misplaced your passport, you’ll need to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate ASAP. (You can find country-specific information here.) Ask to speak to the Consular Section and inform them that your passport was lost or stolen. Tell them when you’re scheduled to leave the country so they can make an effort to expedite the process so you don’t miss your flight. Also ask them where you can obtain a new passport photo—having this in hand before you arrive at the embassy or consulate will be a big time saver.
If the country you’re visiting doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the U.S., then you’ll need to locate another country’s embassy that serves as the protecting power of the U.S. (For example, the Embassy of Switzerland serves this role for the U.S. in Iran.) Other country’s embassies may be able to assist you with obtaining the proper documentation, but the request will still need to be processed by the U.S. government—which could take weeks. On the other hand, if you’re traveling to U.S.-friendly destinations such as Paris or London, you’ll have no trouble finding a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Gather the necessary documentation.
In order to avoid wasting time at the embassy or consulate, gather all the necessary documents before arriving there in person. You will need the following:
- Your new passport photo
- Proof of identity (e.g. a driver’s license)
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship (e.g. a photocopy of your missing passport)
- Travel itinerary (e.g. airline or train tickets)
- Police report (if applicable)
- DS-11 Application for Passport (Fill this out in advance or at the embassy or consulate)
- DS-64 Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport (Fill this out in advance or at the embassy or consulate)
- A means of paying the fee. Most people will need to pay the regular passport fee of $140 (plus any applicable expedited fees) in order to obtain a new passport. (If you can’t afford it, you can name someone who will pay the fee on your behalf.) If you were the victim of a serious crime or a natural disaster, the fee will likely be waived.
Depending on your travel situation, it will take more or less time to receive your new passport. (Also note that consulates and embassies are unable to issue new passports on weekends or holidays.) If you had been planning to stay in the area for some time, it may take up to (or even more than) a week to receive your new passport, which will be valid for ten years for adults (five years for minors). If you had imminent travel plans, then you will be issued a limited-validity, emergency passport within 24 hours. In this case, you will still need to get a full-validity passport once you’ve returned to the U.S.
If necessary, revise your itinerary.
If you are unable to receive a new passport in time to make your flight home, then you’ll need to re-book your flight. If you’re not planning to return to the U.S. right away, then it’s critical that you research the visa, entry, and exit requirements of your next destination. Some countries, for example, do not recognize the validity of emergency passports—in which case you might need to cancel that leg of your trip or stay in your current location until you’re able to receive a full-validity passport. These decisions will come down to your personal budget and time constraints. Just make sure to do your research before you fly.
If necessary, apply for a full-validity passport once you’ve arrived home.
If you were granted a full-validity passport when you received your new passport abroad, then you don’t need to worry about this step. But if you were issued a limited-validity, emergency passport, it’s a good idea to apply for a new full-validity passport as soon as possible once you’ve arrived home.
We won’t lie and say that losing your passport abroad isn’t a hassle. But these steps will help ensure that you’re able to procure a new passport and get on with your trip as quickly as bureaucratic policies allow.