How do I replace a lost or stolen passport?

What happens when you lose your U.S. passport while traveling? Don’t panic! In my latest USA Today video Q&A, I explain how to get it back — pronto!

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://www.thewomenstravelgroup.com/ Phyllis Stoller

    Absolutely good info. Our last group had one woman who left her passport at the Delta luggage counter in Buenos Aires!.

    So here are a few more tips:

    Have the embassy/consulate info with you before you travel so you do not need to find wifi to access the web.

    Was your toll free number workable overseas?

    Remember, when you get your new passport, you might have to produce a police report or go back to the airport for a new entry visa stamp.Otherwise when you depart that country, it appears you entered illegally.

    Besides the emailed image of your passport, also photo any visa you got for the trip and keep that on hand also. That way you can prove you did get the visa before.

    We have had many lost passports over the years; the costs involved are covered by good travel insurance ( extra taxis, hotel night,photos the new fee etc-) just keep your receipts.

    Be nice to the consular officers, they deal with a lot of nervous thus nasty Americans.

  • Mike LaMonaca

    Thanks for sharing this — one thing you should also mention is the need to get a police report. Both the embassy and your travel insurance company may require this. My passport was stolen in Buenos Aires in January, on a Friday evening — I was supposed to fly home on Sunday night. But because the embassy didn’t reopen until Monday, I had to change my flight. The airline had nothing available for another four days, but because I happened to buy a refundable ticket (I had splurged on a business class seat) I was able to cancel the ticket and book a new flight on another airline.

  • rybashka

    I once had my passport stolen from my hotel room in London. After some red tape, I was able to return home without a passport but was told that, for that privilege, I had to pay a fee to the U.S. government “by check”–no credit cards.

    After I returned, I immediately mailed my check to the appropriate address and never heard back from them. When I applied for a new passport months later, I got rejected and was told that it was because the previously fee had not been paid by using a certified check.

    Nowhere was it previously stated that the check had to be certified. No bureaucrat ever bothered to send a letter saying that my method of payment was incorrect. Instead of doing their jobs, government employees figured that I’d eventually have to get another passport and that they’d get me then. Idiots.

  • backprop

    that sounds just about right….

  • jmtabb

    Some thoughts – though my experience was pre 9/11 and the expectations may have changed:

    1. Having a copy of your passport is helpful, but not required. When my passport and wallet were stolen in Japan, my (then) boyfriend (now husband) was able to vouch for me in order to get a temporary passport.

    Usually they wanted someone who has known you for at least 3 years, and we only had two years at the time. I think it helped that I was familiar with the consulates in Japan, was obviously not Japanese (I’m tall, blonde and blue-eyed), and that the consular officer had the exact same thing happen to his daughter the week before not far from where mine was stolen.

    2. Get a police report as Mike LaMonaca advises. While I didn’t need it to get the new passport, I did need it in order to exit the country. Many countries staple their entry/exit documents into your passport. When I was going through immigration at the airport and I didn’t have that exit paper in my passport, I got sent to a back room for further investigation, and the police report was what got things moving so I didn’t miss my flight.

    In many countries you’ll need an official copy of the police report – properly stamped. Don’t forget to ask for it when you are filling in the report or you’ll have to go back again to get it.

    3. You’ll need to have the requisite passport photos to get the new passport issued, and will need to have the cash on hand to have them done at a local shop if you don’t have any at the ready.

    4. Having a copy of your passport (or at minimum the passport number, issue date and issue location) helps a lot with the Embassy/Consulate. You can leave the scans in a dropbox account, on your g-mail account, or (if you are going to a place with limited internet access) make color copies and keep them in a separate place.