What To Do If You Lose Your U.S. Passport In Another Country

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Losing your passport is not a situation anyone wants to be in, no matter where they are in the world. However, if your passport goes missing in another country, it will be much more inconvenient than if you lost it at home. Many travelers can relate to that moment of panic on the way to the airport, wondering whether or not they remembered their passports.

Fortunately, it’s usually safe in a pocket or backpack and the panic quickly fades. What if it’s nowhere to be found? Even worse, what if you’re in a foreign country trying to get back home? I won’t panic. You will still be able to return home, but it will be a bit more complicated than originally planned.

An American flag fluttering in the wind outside the US Embassy in London, UK

The first step to take if your passport goes missing abroad

If your passport goes missing abroad and you’re sure you’ve checked everywhere, you need to act quickly especially if you will be traveling home soon. Whether or not it has been lost or stolen, there is one step you should take as soon as possible.

Report your passport as lost or stolen as soon as possible. If it falls into the wrong hands, you risk becoming a victim of identity theft. Be sure to report it as lost or stolen on the State Department portal as soon as you know for sure that your passport is missing. Remember, when your login is lost or stolen, you won’t be able to use it for travel! So make sure you’re 100% sure it won’t show up after you’ve reported it missing.

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The wallet and passport lie on the floor as the passenger moves away from them

Victim of theft?

After reporting your passport as stolen, it can be good practice to file a police report with your local authority, especially if more than just your passport has been stolen. This is useful when making a claim with travel insurance companies, as many will cover the cost of replacing your passport and stolen items.

In addition, the State Department recommends filing a police report with the local police in any case, regardless of whether it is lost or stolen, as this can help confirm the loss or theft. However, they also stress that it’s best not to spend extra time filing a police report if you’ll be leaving the country soon.

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A man pickpockets a tourist as she leaves and takes her passport from her backpack

Can you travel back to the US without a passport?

In short, no. In some rare cases, travelers can enter the US by land or sea with an enhanced driver’s license. However, in most cases it will not be possible to travel back to the United States without a valid passport. All US citizens must present a valid passport when traveling to or from the US by air.

Frustrated passenger at airport kiosk while attendant checks missing documents

Lost or stolen passport: steps to take as soon as possible

After reporting your passport as lost or stolen and possibly filing a police report, you should take several steps as quickly as possible to ensure that you can travel back to the United States between your originally planned travel dates.

  1. Collect the documents: You will need to contact the US embassy or consulate, but before you do, you should gather evidence to make the process go as quickly as possible. You will need the following:
  • Passport photo
  • ID: Like a driver’s license
  • Proof of US Citizenship: Birth certificates, photocopies of the missing passport
  • Travel plan
  • Police report: If applicable
  • Form DS-11: Passport application
  • Form DS-64: Statement regarding a lost or stolen passport
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Embassy of the United States of America in London, United Kingdom
  1. Go to the nearest US embassy or consulate and ask to speak with the consular section: If you have been a victim of a crime, notify the consulate for rapid assistance. If you’re leaving the country soon, make sure you tell them your travel details so they can try to help you pick a travel date. (Note: most embassies and consulates cannot issue passports on holidays or weekends)
  2. Get a new passport: Processing times can vary and the type of passport you receive depends on how fast your travel plans are. If your travel plans are urgent, you will likely be issued a limited-validity emergency passport that will allow you to travel back to the United States, where you will need to obtain a full replacement passport. If you can get a full replacement abroad, a new passport will be valid for 10 years and cost $130 (at the time of this writing).
Traveler with US passport case, international travel concept

Things to keep in mind

Losing your passport in another country will definitely be stressful. However, know that you are not the first person to have experienced this, and embassies and consulates will provide you with all possible assistance. Accidents happen, and while it may seem like the end of the world, you’ll be home safe and sound before you know it. However, it would be best if we were never in this situation in the first place. Here are some tips to make sure this never happens to you, and some to keep in mind just in case:

  • Lock: When you arrive at the hotel, lock your passport in the hotel safe.
  • Photocopies: It is a good idea to always have photocopies of important documents such as your passport, birth certificate and driver’s license on your trip. Electronic copies are also helpful.
  • Have a designated pocket: In the chaos that accompanies the journey through the airport, it is easy to confuse things. Choose a specific place for your passport so you always know whether you have it with you or not.
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Travel warning: Don’t forget travel insurance for your next trip!

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

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