Exactly How to Replace a Lost, Stolen, or Expired Passport
Your passport is one of those things you don’t think about until it’s time to board a flight to Paris—or even worse, a flight back home from an international destination. But even without immediate travel plans, having to update an expired passport can be a bit of a chore. We got the scoop from travel pros on what to expect when you need to replace your passport in a pinch.
How to Replace Your Passport While Abroad
Act on It Right Away
Christie Hudson, head of communications for Expedia North America, says, if you’re traveling abroad when you realize you’ve lost your passport, you need to act immediately. First, contact the closest United States embassy or consulate to report the loss or theft. “[Doing] that will actually render it invalid so that no one can use it for travel or for identification purposes,” Hudson says.
Have Access to Proper Authentication
When you arrive at the embassy, you’ll want to be able to present the proper documentation to get your new passport. In this instance, that includes a new passport photo, an ID, evidence of citizenship, your travel itinerary and a police report, if you filed one following a theft. That’s according to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.
“I’d recommend you email yourself an additional copy of your passport, a photo identification and any travel documents you might need to reference,” Hudson says. “You can also leave physical copies to a friend or family member in the event they need to overnight them to you. Often when someone loses a passport, everything goes with it: their wallet, their driver’s license, et cetera.”
The embassy will make every effort to assist you quickly and before your return trip. And you can expect to pay normal fees for a standard issue passport, according to the department. Keep in mind the embassy or consulate cannot do this on weekends or holidays unless it’s a life or death emergency or you’ve been the victim of a serious crime.
The federal government lists the steps you need to take online. For the full rundown, visit https://travel.state.gov/.
How to Replace Your Passport While at Home
If you can’t find your passport at home while preparing for travel, you’ll still want to cancel your old one. Follow the same steps by reporting the theft to the state department by phone or online. You can skip the embassy this time.
File for a New One ASAP
Then, depending on how soon you need a new one, you’ll want to go about filing. A first-time passport can take six to eight weeks to be issued, while a renewal for an expired or lost passport can typically be done more quickly.
If you need yours within the month, there’s an optional $15 rush fee for passport books or a $60 fee for the cards that can cut the timeline down considerably to a week or a few days. (Cards can’t be used for air travel, according to the state department, so chances are you’re opting for the book.)
Filing for the First Time
If you’re getting a passport for the first time, you’ll need to go in person. The same is true if you’ve had your previous passport lost or stolen, or it’s been more than 15 years since you’ve had one that was valid, Hudson says.
Fill out form DS-11, available online, and bring a photo ID, proof of citizenship, and a current passport photo. Be sure the image is a color photo, warns Cheapflights.com. You can have them taken at most Walgreens or CVS pharmacies, or at a shipping center such as UPS Or FedEx. Gather those items and take them to your nearest acceptance facility. You can search for yours by zip code. Typically these facilities are libraries, post offices, or other government buildings.
“Oftentimes in the summer, there are passport fairs where you can go without an appointment, which makes it easier,” Hudson says.
Steps for Replacing an Existing Passport
If you just need a replacement, you can complete the process online by sending over some documentation, including your current passport. “They do send your old passport back to you and it’s really up to you what you do with it, you can shred it or dispose of it,” Hudson says. “I like to keep mine because they’re full of memories for me. You’ll just want to keep it somewhere safe as you would with a current one.”
Keep in mind that should you change your name, say upon marriage, you’ll have to go through these steps to get your information updated. And if you’re replacing your teenager’s passport, or getting one for your infant for the first time, visit the bureau’s site for full details.
Where to Store Your Passport
Considering how often passports are lost, stolen or misplaced, it’s smart to think preventatively. Hudson suggests purchasing a corded carrier while traveling, so you can sling your passport around your neck, but keep it under a layer of clothing, close to your person to avoid theft.
“When you’re traveling it’s best to keep your passport with you at all times, the only exception is in an in-room safe in your hotel room,” Hudson says. “They make wallets specifically designed for passports, which I recommend if you know you’re going to be in a high-traffic city.”
If that seems like overkill, Hudson suggests a zippered pocket at minimum, where you’d notice a pickpocket try to get it. Don’t keep it in something like a backpack, which can be taken from you. Back at the hotel, use a safe if they have one. Cheapflights.com also recommends carrying a padlock for shared rooms with lockers.
At home, keep your passport somewhere you’ll be able to find it and somewhere secure. If you have a safe for valuables, that works—Cheapflights.com recommends a fireproof one. Otherwise try storing where you keep other important documents, like a desk or filing cabinet. And seal it in a plastic bag to keep it dry. “Water damaged passports are rendered invalid,” Hudson says. “So in that case it would need to be replaced, and it’s especially easy to spill something on it while traveling.”
Wherever you keep yours, keep it the same. “It’s good to just make sure you put it in the same place every time you get home from a trip so you don’t misplace it,” Hudson says. No need to go through this process if you don’t need to.