What to Do if You Lose Your Passport in a Foreign Country

Your go-to guide for a smooth and speedy renewal if you're in a bind.

By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterMay 16, 2016
By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterMay 16, 2016, at 3:54 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

What to Do if You Lose Your Passport in a Foreign Country

Close up of woman's hand holding open passport.

"While it is an inconvenience, of course, it's not something we can't deal with."(Getty Images)

At some point or another – whether you're a seasoned jet-setter or inexperienced traveler – you've likely frantically rummaged through your belongings in search of a misplaced passport. After spending hours retracing your steps and scanning every pocket and piece of luggage only to realize your passport is gone, your knee-jerk reaction might be to reach for your phone and seek comfort from a loved one. "It's a shock," says Michelle Bernier-Toth, managing director of overseas citizen services for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. But the key is staying calm and avoiding panic should this situation arise, she says, adding, "While it is an inconvenience, of course, it's not something we can't deal with."

To navigate this tense situation while abroad, follow these expert-approved strategies for replacing a passport as quickly as possible and minimizing hassle along the way.

Declare Your Passport Missing or Stolen

The first step is filing a police report, Bernier-Toth says, pointing out that this is especially important if you're a victim of a crime. After contacting the local authorities, it's critical to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or American consulate to declare your passport misplaced or stolen. Once a passport is reported, it's entered into the Consular Lost and Stolen Database and flagged, so if you happen to find your old passport, it's no longer valid for travel, she says.

Fortunately, the process for filing a lost passport is fairly simple. You can submit the required DS-64 form online through a safe portal available on the State Department's website. Alternatively, you can report a missing passport by calling 1-877-487-2778. However, to replace a passport, you must submit the DS-11 passport application in person at the nearest embassy or consulate.

If you have the free ItsEasy renewal app (available on iPhone and Android), you can submit the 2-by-2-inch required passport photo and required document digitally through the portal. The app alerts you to where the closest embassy is located, says David Alwadish, CEO of ItsEasy.com, enabling you to easily pinpoint need-to-know emergency info and expedite the process. ItsEasy directs users to the appropriate government-required passport renewal forms and advisories.

Prep Your Materials for Your Appointment

Once you've submitted a sworn statement at your closest U.S. embassy or consulate about how your passport was lost or stolen, you'll need to arrange an in-person appointment where you can submit the required materials for an emergency passport. Before arriving at your appointment, make sure to carry proof of identity or citizenship, Bernier-Toth says. You'll also need a passport photo, and it's a smart idea to carry a copy of your passport with you. "Take a new passport photo prior to going to the embassy. Doing so will help expedite the passport replacement process," advises Tom Spagnola, senior vice president, supplier relations at CheapOair. You should also expect to pay a standard $140 application fee for a passport and passport card (expedited service fees are an added $60).

Also, keep in mind that embassies and consulates will want to know more details about your itinerary, Bernier-Toth says, so it's best to bring your flight and lodging details as well. Generally, embassies and consulates will not be able to issue passports during weekends or holidays. Otherwise, you can anticipate a quick turnaround with a limited validity or emergency passport in the same day, she adds.

Do Your Research and Revise Your Itinerary if Necessary

"As long as there is a U.S. embassy or American consulate, the process should take place without any delays," Spagnola says. But there are some caveats. For example, if you're traveling somewhere that's remote, you may encounter delayed processing times for receiving a limited validity passport, he says. And though a limited validity passport displays the same information as a regular passport but with fewer pages, the delay in receiving it could impact your itinerary. "The other concern is that there could be substantial change fees from the airline should you need to change your flight dates," he cautions, and there may be other visa and entry and exit requirements, such as restricting emergency passports, imposed from other destinations on your itinerary.

"Look for any travel alerts and warnings," Bernier-Toth says, emphasizing the importance of understanding what's required for the specific destinations on your itinerary. "Make sure you have an emergency plan," she says, adding that it's important to know how to get in touch with the embassy should such a situation come up. She also recommends bringing a driver's license as a secondary form of ID, regardless of whether you're planning to drive overseas.

"We can only issue an emergency passport where we have an embassy or consulate," Bernier-Toth says. There are places where the U.S. doesn't have diplomatic relations, and therefore it's essential to find a way to access a neighboring country, she explains. Take Iran, for example, where the Embassy of Switzerland serves as the protecting power of the U.S. While the Swiss can offer the proper documentation for a U.S. citizen to receive an emergency passport, the request needs to be issued by the U.S. government and could take weeks to process, Bernier-Toth explains. Although the Swiss government can file a form for issuance, "the bottom line is [travelers] are going to have to get themselves to a consulate or embassy," she says. She urges travelers to visit the State Department website to browse country-specific travel information and stay up to date on the current political climate and entry and exit requirements in destinations on their itinerary.

Replace Your Passport at Home

While an emergency passport resembles a regular passport, it's only valid for one year. Upon returning to the U.S., you can easily exchange the passport for a passport that's valid for 10 years without paying an additional fee, she adds. The processing time for receiving a full passport hinges on where and when your passport was issued, but like typical passports, expect it to take around four to six weeks.

Corrected on May 19, 2016: A previous version of this story misidentified the ItsEasy application as being supported by the State Department.

Liz Weiss, Staff Writer

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of ...  Read more

Recommended

The 16 Best San Diego Tours

Take advantage of the adventures this coastal city has to offer with a guided trip.

Lyn MettlerJune 24, 2019

12 Top Napa Valley Wineries to Visit

Set your sights on these can't-miss wineries during your next visit to California's wine country.

June 24, 2019

The 6 Best Denver Brewery Tours

Discover the buzz about Denver's craft beer scene with these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 21, 2019

The 10 Best Charleston Walking Tours

Experience true southern hospitality as you explore Charleston on one of these strolls.

Claire LawtonJune 20, 2019

The 15 Best Charleston Tours

See everything this historic South Carolina city has to offer on one of these guided excursions.

John RodwanJune 19, 2019

The 5 Best Kauai Helicopter Tours

See the Garden Island's far-reaching beauty from the air.

Holly JohnsonJune 14, 2019

The 6 Best Las Vegas Helicopter Tours

Get a thrilling look at the lights and sights of Sin City and its surroundings with one of these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

20 Road Trip Essentials for Your Vacation

These road trip must-haves can help you save money, travel more comfortably and ensure you stay safe on the open road.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

13 Top Charlottesville Wineries to Visit

Sip a glass of Virginia's signature viognier as the sun sets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

June 12, 2019

The 16 Best Seattle Tours

Explore the Emerald City's natural beauty and urban offerings with these guided excursions.

Lyn MettlerJune 12, 2019