What to Do If You Lose Your Passport While Traveling

Losing a passport while traveling can feel terrifying. You might envision yourself stranded at the airport or stuck in a country you'd rather leave. Panic could easily set in. That's why it's a good idea to be somewhat prepared for the possibility before you set out on any journey abroad. Fortunately, once the shock of losing your passport wears off, you'll only need to follow a few steps to remedy the situation and resume your travels. Here's what to do. 

King Huang/Flickr

King Huang/Flickr

1. Report your passport missing or stolen.

The first thing to do when you realize that your passport is gone is alert the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. You can do this by filing Form DS-64 online or calling (877) 487-2778 (you'll still have to fill out the form later). You can also fill out the form at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (more on that below). It's recommended that you also file a police report with local law enforcement authorities in your location if you're a victim of theft. 

2. Schedule an appointment to apply for a replacement passport.

Next, make an appointment at a nearby U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for an emergency passport (if you're traveling soon) or a regular passport (if you've got several weeks to spare). Check out the U.S. State Department website for an interactive map that offers locations and contact information for U.S. embassies and consulates in countries around the world. 

If you're traveling somewhere that doesn't have a U.S. embassy or consulate for diplomatic reasons, then you'll need to get to an embassy of another country that offers "protecting power" -- Switzerland provides this to the U.S. in Iran, for example. 

3. Get a new passport photo.

You'll need to bring a new two-inch by two-inch passport photo of yourself to the embassy or consulate appointment. Check the U.S. State Department website to learn about additional photo requirements -- no glasses allowed, for example. 

4. Gather other necessary materials.

Along with your photo, you'll have to bring a few other supporting documents to your appointment: 

  • Identification (a driver's license or state ID card, for example) 
  • Details of your travel itinerary, including flights and lodging
  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship, such as a photocopy of your missing passport

If you can't provide a photocopy of your passport, don't panic. According to the U.S. State Department, consular staff will still work with you to quickly replace your passport even if you're missing some of the documents. Still, do yourself a favor and email yourself copies before you travel abroad just in case. 

5. Head to the U.S. embassy or consulate.

Keep in mind that you'll have to go through a metal detector and have your personal items inspected by X-ray equipment before entering a U.S. embassy or consulate in any country. Also, certain items aren't allowed in with you, including large bags, food and drinks, and any type of recording equipment including cell phones. 

6. Submit official forms and fees.

If you haven't already submitted a Form DS-64 online, then you'll need to do so at the embassy or consulate during your appointment. Also, you'll have to fill out a DS-11 passport application and explain how your passport went missing or got stolen in a sworn statement. Unfortunately, the passport replacement process is pricey: $110 for a passport, $30 for a passport card, or $140 for both, plus an extra $60 for expedited service. 

7. Get a new regular passport.

Emergency passports are only valid for a year, so you'll have to exchange yours for a regular passport once you're back in the U.S. -- but there's no fee involved. 

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