Lost and Stolen Passports:
What to Do

By Marianne Schwab | Best Travel Deals Tips Blog

If you are traveling abroad, a lost or stolen passport can be a disaster and ruin your vacation. You need to know that your passport is the most important item on your packing list along with a lost or stolen passport emergency kit. If you don't have a passport, need to renew your existing passport, or you need get a visa to the country you will be traveling to, you may want to check out services that help you especially if you're pressed for time or don't live in or near a major city like I do in Los Angeles where you can more easily obtain these documents yourself.

The services are rather inexpensive considering the assistance they provide and you will save you time and money in the long run. I mean, who wants to wait in long lines like I did a couple of years ago at the Chinese Embassy for a Visa application and then schedule another half day out of your life to go pick it up when it's been approved? So you can see the value of their passport and visa service.

Once you have your passport, it is very important that you guard your passport as it will protect you. If you end up with a lost or stolen passport while on you're vacation, your trip could turn into a potential disaster. That's why it is so important to know how to protect your most important travel document. I have put together some tips for what to do if you suddenly find yourself with a lost or stolen passport while you're traveling abroad.

Before You Go
First, there are three things you need to do before you go on your vacation in the event you have the unfortunate experience of a losing your passport or having your passport stolen while on your trip.

1. Make Four Photocopies of Your Passport & Visa(s). Here is a policy that I've followed for years and that is to make four copies of my passport identification page. I then leave one copy each with two different friends or family members that I trust and that I can reach in an emergency in case I need them to fax me or an embassy a copy of my passport. I also take a photo scan of my passport and email the jpeg to my friend and family member as well. The other two copies I carry with me in two separate places from my passport (usually one in my checked bag and another in my carry on bag). If you're traveling to a country that requires a Visa, make sure you have four copies of that as well and follow the same procedures as with your passport copies.

2. Carry an Emergency Passport Kit. You can be prepared for an emergency with a lost passport or stolen passport by creating an "emergency passport kit" to take with you on your trip. Here's a list of what you'll probably need, but the actual procedures for getting an emergency passport differ based on the country you're visiting:

• Three passport photos (some embassies require only two)
• A photo ID (i.e. Drivers License)
• Airline ticket, booking confirmation or travel itinerary
• Cruise Boarding Card
• A police report, if possible
• Passport application form (DS-11)
• Lost or Stolen Passport form (DS-64)
• Copy of Visa(s) (if applicable)
• Proof of U.S. citizenship (such as a copy of your birth certificate, social security card, Certificate of Naturalization, or a copy of your passport that you've packed with you)

Pack the list of items above that you will need for getting an emergency passport. If you do not have everything you need, you may need to present an affidavit of identifying witness. This will be filled out by a fellow traveler, who can attest that you are who you say you are.

3. Register with the U.S. Embassy. If you plan to be abroad for ten days or more, you may want to register with the U.S. embassy in the country or countries you are visiting. For more information, you can also check out Travel Warnings and Advisories. A friend of mine was recently in Bangkok during the recent civil unrest so it helps to know if there are any dangerous political situations to be made aware of before you travel.

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Safeguard Your Passport A U.S. passport is a very hot commodity so take it out only when you need to provide it to officials and you need to keep your passport on you physically at all times when your travel.

1. Purchase a Money Belt. There are several travel accessories that you can purchase to help you keep your passport and personal items safe. These security wallets can be worn inside your clothing around your waist. There is also a Secret Neck Pouch that can be slipped around your neck or stashed away in a pants leg. You can find these products at most travel specialty stores like Brookstone, Magellan's, or at luggage departments in major department stores like Macy's. If you are extremely conscientious, you can also get Surf Safe® or even hydro-safe wallets so that you can take your passport swimming or snorkeling with you (I have one of these I picked up at scuba shop).

2. Keep a Low Profile - Don't Look Like a Tourist. I go out of my way to blend in with the locals where I can when I travel and that means that I often don't wear blue jeans or sneakers (at least not white ones). I also keep my camera in a pocket and I'm constantly aware of my surroundings when I'm in big cities, crowded tourist areas or airports.

As the American Express Traveler's Check commercial embedded into my head years ago, "Remember some people take vacations for a living." The commercial was obviously referring to pick pockets and thieves and I like to think my "street-smart sense" from living and working in New York City for eight years has helped me to navigate these international cities and avoid being a victim of a crime. With that said, you need to behave in a way to avoid being a target of crime or a "mark." That means you don't want be too conspicuous with your passport as you will not only risk having your passport stolen, but you could also risk having other identification, credit cards and money stolen as well.

3. Tips for Keeping Your Passport Safe
• One person should never carry all the passports for an entire group.
• Never leave your passport in your purse, an exposed pocket or your checked luggage (but you do want to leave a photocopy of it in your luggage).
• Leave your passport in a hotel safe and not in an empty hotel room.
• Never lend your passport to anyone, use it as collateral or ask someone to hold it for you.

How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Passport
Whether you think you have a lost passport or think you have a stolen passport, you need to take action immediately! That means if you think that there's a slight chance that you'll return to your hotel room or cruise ship cabin and find your passport under the bed, then get back to your hotel or ship as soon as you can and search your room from corner to corner. If you cannot locate it, then you need to report it missing to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible.

If Your Passport is Lost or Stolen When Traveling Overseas
If you're traveling abroad when you discover you have a lost or stolen passport, then you need to contact the police and then your local embassy or consulate. You'll have to show up in person at the embassy to apply for an emergency passport. An emergency passport is valid only for a limited time, and once you are back in the United States you'll have to apply for a new passport. At the embassy or consulate, you will be asked to fill out a standard passport application form (DS-11). You are not required to know the passport number or issuance date to apply for a new passport but if you have a copy of your passport, this will be very helpful.

If your passport is still valid (which it should be), then you must also complete form (DS-64) to report the lost or stolen passport. You will be asked to report how, where and when you lost your current passport or details as to how it was stolen, what you did to recover it, and what the end result was. This form must be submitted with the DS-11 application. Both of these forms can be downloaded and printed from the State Department Web site and it will be helpful to have them with you in you're emergency passport kit.

You'll also need to pay an in-person passport application fee of $100, payable in U.S. dollars, the currency of your current destination or U.S. dollar bank draft, and a passport application form (you can get this at the embassy). Trust us -- you'll thank your clever self for putting this together if you end up with a lost passport or a stolen passport and you have to deal with the stress of replacing it.

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If Your Passport is Lost or Stolen When Traveling Domestically
First, call the police, and then report your stolen passport. Do this by either filling out a DS-64 form and mailing it to the address on the National Passport Information Center Web site. You can also call (877) 487-2778 to reach an operator Monday through Friday from 8 a.m until 10 p.m. ET; an automated system is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After this is done, you must go to a passport agency or a passport acceptance facility to apply in person. If you want to find out the status of an application, you can now check online.

Travel Tip
You can save up to $525 when you book your flight and hotel together at Expedia.com!

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About Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer

For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more