No matter how many times I travel to a foreign country, I feel the same surge of excitement the moment the plane lands. Traveling abroad allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture that's entirely different from your own, and it's a (highly enjoyable) learning experience that can't be found in any classroom. But if there's one thing I've learned during my years of living and traveling abroad, it's to expect and be prepared for at least one (or five) things to go not as smoothly as planned. More often than not, hiccups are fairly minor and easy to handle, but losing your passport falls into the "time to freak out" category.
While it's easier said than done, try not to panic too much if your passport is lost or stolen during your trip. It doesn't mean you'll be trapped outside your home country indefinitely, sleeping on airport floors, and begging every TSA agent in sight to let you board your international flight using your driver's license as ID.
Prior to embarking on your trip, it's definitely worth it to take the simple step of photocopying your passport. Bring one copy with you and leave another another copy at home with a friend or family member. This documentation will make the process of obtaining a replacement passport quicker and easier. And once you're abroad, follow these steps:
- Report your passport missing as quickly as possible. As soon as you realize your passport is gone, contact your country's nearest embassy or consulate and report that it has either been lost or stolen. It will then be flagged and entered into the Consular Lost and Stolen Database — just keep in mind that this means if you find your passport, it's no longer valid for travel and you'll still need to move forward getting a replacement.
- Fill out the necessary paperwork for a replacement passport. You'll need to fill out two forms: a DS-64, which is an official report that your passport has been lost or stolen, and a DS-11, which is an application for a replacement passport. You'll also want to get a replacement passport photo taken; it'll expedite the process once you arrive at the embassy to get your new passport.
- Make an appointment at the embassy to get your replacement passport. Arrive to your appointment as prepared as possible. Bring your DS-64 and DS-11 forms, your new passport photo, some form of ID such as your driver's license, and (if you have one) a photocopy of your passport. It can also be helpful to bring information about your travel itinerary, such as flight and lodging details. The more information you can provide, the better.
- Tell the consular officer the date of your flight home. This is especially important if you lose your passport shortly before you're scheduled to leave the country. In that case, they'll help you get a limited validity emergency passport and you'll have to get a new full validity passport upon your return home. If your passport is lost or stolen early on in your trip, you can typically get a full validity passport which will be valid for ten years.
- Be prepared to pay for your replacement passport. Normal passport fees apply when you're obtaining a replacement passport. Adult renewals cost $140. If you don't have the funds to pay the fee, be prepared to provide the names of people who can assist you financially — and, of course, touch base with them in advance to make sure they're willing and able to give or lend you the money.
Dealing with a lost passport is undeniably a stressful hassle, but at the end of the day, you can rest assured that you'll make it home — and on the bright side, you'll have a good misadventure story to tell your friends.