Passports 101 - What to Do if It Gets Lost, and How to Replace It
by Daniel | Last Updated July 28th, 2019
Suddenly, you feel around in your backpack and a prickly sense of dread and panic trickles down the back of your neck: the pocket that once held your passport is now... empty.
The last thing that comes to your mind when traveling is the potential of losing your passport-- that's just something that doesn't happen, right? Unfortunately, it's quite possible to drop or lose your passport, or even worse: have your passport stolen.
However, it doesn't mean your whole vacation is ruined, or that you're stuck in the country forever! It just takes a bit of planning and doing things differently for next time.
Here is a guide on what to do if you lose your passport while you're traveling abroad.
How Many People Actually Lose Their Passports?
While losing your passport is a serious issue, it doesn't happen nearly as often as you may think.
Around 300,000 passports are reported as lost or stolen every year. This sounds like a lot, but compared to the 109 million US passports that are out there, it's not that many at all.
This should make you rest at least a little bit easier, knowing that the likelihood of getting your passport stolen or lost is relatively low.
How Can Your Passport Get Stolen?
Even though it may be right next to you, taking your eyes off your passport for even 1 second opens up the possibility of someone brushing by and snatching it up.
This next one might sound crazy, but someone may actually spill a drink on you as a scam! Upon offering you assistance, they pat down your pockets and nimbly lift it out during the commotion. If this happens to you-- refuse assistance and march on!
Of course, we all know of pickpockets. It's essential to keep your passport in a secure pocket, one that zips and is difficult to reach. Pick pocketers are very skilled at taking things without you feeling anything: bumping into you so that you don't even realize what happened.
How to Secure Your Passport
It's always best to be proactive when dealing with your passport: try to avoid losing it in the first place!
When traveling, you want to make sure you're keeping your passport as secure as you're keeping your cash. That means no leaving it out in the hotel, no leaving it in unsecured pockets, and definitely no setting it down anywhere.
When staying in hotels, no matter how many stars it is, make sure to keep it locked up in a safe.
When you're out and about, keep your passport in a cover or wallet in a zippered (preferably hidden) pocket. Avoid keeping money with your passport, as thieves will take notice!
Keep a Digital or Physical Picture of Your Passport
This is something you would need to do before your trip. If the worst should happen and your passport is gone, you want to make sure you have a picture on your phone or have a physical photocopy of it with you.
This is so you can prove US citizenship when contacting the embassy to get a new passport. Also, and most people don't know this- you can have duplicate passports!
You can't take them both out of the country, but if you lose one while you're abroad, you could have a family member express ship the other one to you.
Locate and Contact the Nearest US Embassy or Consulate
The contact information for US Embassies around the world can be found online at USembassy.gov, or on the state department's website of that country.
You need to contact the US Embassy and then speak with the consular section to make an appointment. If you've lost your passport as a result of theft, it's important to tell the officer.
Also, make sure to tell them how soon you are leaving the country! This dictates whether or not you need a limited validity passport to get out ASAP, or a full validity passport as a replacement.
Prepare for Your Embassy Appointment
Once you have an appointment set for the Embassy, you need to make sure you have all the documents you need to ensure a speedy replacement of your passport. Here are the things you'll need:
Bring your own passport photo. Some Embassies will provide them, but it's best to be prepared with your own.
Some form of official ID (driver's license, birth certificate, social security card, expired passport, etc.)
Proof of US citizenship (photocopy of US passport, birth certificate)
Travel itinerary complete with plane or train tickets
A police report, if your passport was stolen (not required, but will confirm if it was lost or theft)
A completed DS-11 Application for a new passport
Complete a DS-64 Statement, where you describe what happened (whether it was lost or stolen)
Both of the aforementioned forms need to be completed in their entirety in order to get a replacement passport. Once submitted, the new passport will come through any Passport Application Acceptance Facility
Wait For Your Replacement Passport
If you are in the US and going through a normal passport renewal process, your new document can take anywhere from four to six weeks to arrive.
However, this wait time is understandably cut down if you are abroad and have had your documents stolen. Like we mentioned previously if your travel plans dictate that you need to travel back to the US almost immediately, an emergency document can be given to you.
A short-term document can be issued within 24 hours of your application process. This will only get you back to the US, and once you return home you will need to go through the process again to apply for a full-validity document.
If you do not have immediate travel plans, then you can expect to wait a few days depending on the country you are in as the replacement will be shipped from the US.
File a Report for Your Stolen Passport
If you're absolutely certain your passport's been stolen and you haven't simply misplaced it in your suitcase somewhere, find a police station and file a report.
This won't speed up your process of getting a new passport, but it will help validate that you are a US citizen. Then, call the National Passport Information Center to register your passport as officially lost.
You can also download a Form DS-64 from the US Department of State website and mail it in. If you have urgent travel plans, don't waste time filling a report-- get your passport replaced asap.
A word of caution: once you officially register your passport as lost or stolen, it cannot be used for travel. So make extra, extra sure that it's not just hidden in your hotel room!
Losing your passport in the middle of a trip may seem like a tragedy and an absolute trip-ruiner, but it doesn't have to be!
With this guide, you will not only know how to protect against losing your passport, but you also have every answer you need if that should happen.
Travel free of fear knowing that you are equipped with the knowledge you need to deal with this situation!
Welcome to LuggageGuru!
My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.