Help! I Lost My Passport!
Whether it’s before your trip or while you’re on your trip, realizing you lost your passport can be a panic-inducing moment. Even worse, what if you get robbed on your trip? What do you do? Well, it depends, but here are three scenarios, and what you can do in case it happens!
The U.S. Department of State is the Federal agency that issues your passport. Individual states do not issue passports. While a passport agency may be located in a state, it’s not a state agency. It’s a Federal agency. (And remember, passports and visas are different. You can read about the difference between passports and visas in my post Passports vs. Visas – the Difference) Normally, it takes about four to six weeks to get a passport. Expedited service is considered two weeks. Expedited service at the agency will take about eight days. Recently, the U.S. Department of State held passport acceptance fairs at various locations throughout the U.S. While that date has passed, you may want to keep an eye out for future dates if you’re applying for a passport for the first time.
Passports themselves aren’t cheap and expedited service will cost you a pretty penny. Fortunately, different forms of payment are accepted including credit cards, debit cards, checks, money orders, pre-paid credit cards, gift cards and YES cash. Expedited service is $60 and overnight delivery service $15.45 – that’s in addition to the hefty cost of a passport!
Tip: Check the US State Department website for fees for first-time applicants, renewals, extra pages, etc.
Scenario 1: I leave in two weeks and I can’t find my passport!
If you can’t find, lost or had your passport stolen, and you have a couple weeks. Make an appointment with the passport agency center near you. It shouldn’t be that big of an issue, but don’t delay in making the appointment. You may need to request expedited service though….
Scenario 2: I’m leaving in today and I can’t find my passport!
What if you lose your passport the day of your trip? Similar to scenario one, you’ll need to make an appointment; however, if you need your passport, like right now, that might be a stickier wicket. I contacted the toll number for the U.S. Department of State. According to the operator, you can only get a passport on the spot at a regional office since they have the ability to issue a passport basically on the spot (i.e., they can’t do an on the spot issue at the post office), but it’s at their discretion depending on the circumstances.
So the short answer about whether or not you’ll be able to travel is….. it depends.
If you’re in the U.S. and have a life or death emergency and need your passport right away, the State Department can answer those questions.
Scenario 3: I was just robbed on my trip!
You get robbed while you’re on your vacation, and your passport was in the bag that was taken! Go to the local police and file a police report. While it’s not mandatory, it may help in case there’s any question about what happened to your passport.
If you get robbed on a Saturday, most U.S. embassies and consulates won’t be able to issue passports on weekends or holidays because they’re closed, BUT, they all have after-hours duty officers available to assist with life or death emergencies, so it’s a good idea to have the telephone number of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. After-hours duty officers can offer assistance if you have an emergency and need to travel or have been the victim of a serious crime. While they may be able to tell you what steps you’ll need to take, they probably won’t be able to issue a replacement passport until the next business day.
What about paying for it if I’ve been robbed? I don’t have any money! While you’ll have to pay for a replacement passport at some point, if you can’t pay then and there, but you’re going to be in one place for a bit, the embassy or consulate will ask you for names of people who might be able to help pay for it. There’s information on the State Department site about how to send money overseas.
Still, if you’ve been the victim of a serious crime or have been in a disaster, and you’re leaving right away, the passport fee may be waived. In that scenario, the embassy or consulate may issue you a limited-validity passport. When you get back home to the U.S. and apply for a full-validity passport (meaning, a regular passport), you’ll pay the regular fee for a replacement passport.
What am I going to need? What if I don’t have all the stuff?
Here’s a list of documents/items you should take with you to the embassy/consulate if you’re out of the country.
- A passport photo
- Evidence of travel itinerary
- Police report (if you have one)
- DS-11 Application for Passport
- DS-64 Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport
If you don’t have all of it, the consular staff will do what they can to help. That’s why it’s always helpful to have a copy of your important documents, including your passport. I keep a hard copy with my travel arrangements as well as an electronic copy on a USB drive.
No matter which scenario you may find yourself in…
You’ll have to fill out a lost/stolen passport form. You have to make a statement on the U.S. Department of State on form DS-64, describing how your passport was lost or stolen.
Of course, the information above is just a starting point and calling the passport center, going to a passport agency center, or reaching out to your embassy is your best bet. Always keeping a copy of your passport is helpful. And remember, for the latest information, check the U.S. State Department website. It’s really a great resource and you may want to be prepared IF it happens, not AFTER it’s already happened.
Tina Vignali is an English as a Second Language adjunct at the Charles D. Worthington Atlantic City Campus. She writes a monthly travel-themed column for the CommuniCator. You can follow her trips around the block and journeys around the world in her travel blog Traveleidoscope.com. Psst! You can also visit Traveleidoscope on Instagram and on Facebook!