Dealing With a Lost Passport While Traveling

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Dealing with a lost passport while traveling in Asia can be stressful. But as with all challenges that pop up while on the road, you’ll get through it soon enough and continue enjoying all that Asia has to offer.
But first, don’t panic! Scores of travelers lose their passports or have them stolen while abroad each year. Rest assured, you aren’t stuck in a foreign country, and chances are very good that you won’t miss any flights.

Be Prepared With Important Travel Documents

You can alleviate a lot of the stress of replacing a lost passport while abroad just by carrying photocopies of some important documents.
Photocopies of your old passport, birth certificate, and driver’s license go a long way for proving that you are who you say. The more forms of ID the better when the time comes to apply for a new passport.
Having copies of your passport is a good idea anyway, as some businesses will want a copy when you rent motorbikes, apply for permits, etc. Note: keeping the photocopies in your money belt alongside your passport obviously defeats the purpose if both get lost!
For long, multi-country trips, it’s also a good idea to carry along some additional passport photos. You will need a few when applying for visas and permits for some countries and regions anyway. Already having a photo handy will save time when applying for a replacement passport.

What to Do if a Passport Is Stolen?

If you’re certain that your passport was stolen and not just misplaced, you’ll want to get a police report first. A police report provides some proof to the U.S.
Department of State that your passport was indeed stolen and not just lost due to negligence. People who ask for passport replacements too many times could have their applications more scrutinized or be issued short-term passports instead of the usual 10-year documents.
Unfortunately, getting a police report in some Asian countries can be a real fiasco. Even as a victim of crime, the police may want you to pay for their services! Communication is often an issue when filing a police report.
The Department of State website claims that you can skip getting a police report if the time involved to get one would cause you to miss transportation connections or have a serious impact on your trip.

How to Report a Passport as Lost or Stolen

Your old passport needs to be disabled immediately -- contact the nearest embassy to get the process started. When calling, navigate the phone menu to the Consular Section and explain what has happened.
If the embassy is closed, Americans can call the U.S. Department of State (1-877-487-2778) to report a lost passport, or you can complete the lost-passport form online.

Get an Appointment at the Embassy

The embassy can take care of everything you need, however, no American embassies accept walk-ins. No matter how dire your passport-replacement emergency, you’ll need to call first; they will probably have you set up an appointment. After-hours help is reserved explicitly for life-and-death scenarios only.
Let the embassy know your travel itinerary and flight dates right away. If you are due to return home soon, they may just issue you a temporary travel document so that you don’t miss your flight. Three-month limited passports are an option, too.
If there is enough time to go through the replacement process, you will receive a full-power passport with validity for 10 years, just as you would when applying back in the U.S. You won’t need to exchange this passport for a “real” passport once you return home.
To replace a lost or stolen passport, you will need to complete the regular passport form (DS-11) along with a Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport (DS-64).

Friends and Family Can Help

U.S. embassies keep notoriously short hours and are closed on American holidays and local holidays for the country in which they are based. If you’re in a pinch and can’t get through to the embassy, you can have a friend or family member at home call the Overseas Citizens Services hotline (1-888-407-4747 from the U.S. or +1-202-501-4444 from outside the U.S.).
The Bureau of Consular Affairs will at least be able to cancel your old passport and begin the background-check process required to issue you a new passport. This information can be passed along to the embassy, hopefully saving time when you finally get to apply.

Check With Travel Insurance

Perhaps a long shot but still worth a look, read your travel insurance policy to find out if you are eligible to have some of the expense of replacing your stolen passport reimbursed.
Some top-notch policies will reimburse you for missed connections on your itinerary and maybe for fees associated with getting a replacement passport. You will definitely need a police report to proceed with filing a claim.


Although at first glance the bureaucracy is a bit intimidating, embassy staff will expedite the process of getting a replacement passport abroad (assuming that you have taken care of all requirements on your end) and will be able to save your trip! You most certainly won’t be left hanging.

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