If your passport is lost on a trip (whether due to theft or absentmindedness), you can rest easy knowing that you’re not alone. From April 2011 to March 2012 alone, the State Department reported over 253,000 lost passports and over 60,000 stolen worldwide. Though it happens relatively often, losing a passport can still cause problems for American travelers. Use the steps below to sort things out as efficiently as possible.
Step 1: Do a Complete Search
Upon realizing that they don’t know where their passport is, many travelers go into a panic. If you lose your passport, try to stay calm first and foremost. Begin by looking around the immediate area to see if you’ve misplaced it nearby. Next, retrace your steps back to the last time you remember having your passport with you. Carefully check through your hotel room, including all clothing pockets, purses and luggage. Inquire with the staff at any locations you’ve visited to find out if a passport has been found on the premises. Remember to leave your contact information with these locations in case your passport should turn up.
Step 2: Call the Police
If you are positive that your passport is either lost or stolen, file a police report. This can help prevent the misuse of your passport for illegal travel. It can also alert the police to watch out for any doctored copies of your passport. Give the police as many details as possible and be sure to inform them of your contact information and travel plans.
Those traveling for work may be able to get help from their company in certain cases thanks to their insurance policies. Get in touch with someone from human resources if you’re traveling on business when your passport goes missing.
Step 3: Contact the Nearest U.S. Embassy
Immediately after filing a police report, get in touch with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. For help finding the nearest location, visit http://www.usembassy.gov. If you are in the U.S. when your passport goes missing, call 1-877-487-27781-877-487-2778 for help. Once you get in touch, you may have to make an appointment, fill out forms and provide additional identification in order to have your passport replaced. An emergency photo-digitized passport (which is typically valid for up to a year) can, in most cases, be issued in 24 to 48 hours. Though the cost is around $135, travelers can turn in the emergency passport and get one good for 10 years at no cost once they’re back on American soil.
If you can’t get in touch with an embassy or consulate due to off hours, weekends or holidays, file a report at travel.state.gov.
Step 4: Return Found Passport
If you happen to recover your passport after reporting it as lost or stolen, return it to the U.S. State Department. Because you’ve already reported it as missing, the passport cannot be revalidated. You may request that the passport be returned to you. Otherwise, the passport will be destroyed. You can find information about how to return a recovered passport by visiting travel.state.gov.
Tips for Protecting Your Passport
Because losing your passport can be a huge hassle for travelers, it’s important to take steps to help prevent loss and theft on your trip. There are several methods and tips suggested by travel experts, including:
- Make photocopies of all of your documents and credit cards you plan to bring with you on the trip. Leave these in a hotel safe or have a travel partner carry them. You can also scan your passport and email a copy to yourself so you can access it anywhere, any time.
- Bring extra passport photos and a copy of your birth certificate to speed up the replacement process.
- Carry your passport with you as you go through airport security. Don’t leave it in a checked bag that could get lost in transit.
- Keep your passport in a money belt that can be worn under your clothes to help prevent theft while traveling.
- Check the travel.state.gov website to find out if you will be expected to carry your passport with you at all times in the country where you’ll be traveling. If not, you can leave your passport in a hotel safe, but make sure you remember to retrieve it before checking out.
- Never be conspicuous when handling your passport. As soon as you’re done using it, place it back in a safe location where it can’t be easily reached.
- Never lend your passport to anyone, ask someone to hold it for you or use it as collateral.
- Do not allow one person in a group to hold all the passports. With the exception of children, each person should carry their own passport.
Losing your passport or having it stolen doesn’t mean that you will be stranded in a foreign country. There are systems in place to help people in this situation. However, knowing how to protect yourself and what steps to take in an emergency will make it easier to get a replacement passport and enjoy the rest of your trip.