Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.
Well Adrian, my first response when facing a personal crisis overseas is to freak out. But a more dignified approach would be to follow these handy passport safety and replacement instructions so you don’t have to think—or even worry—if the incredibly inconvenient happens.
MAKE A COLOR PHOTOCOPY
This small preventative measure will make the process of getting a replacement passport faster and easier. (For added protection, you can also scan it onto your computer and email yourself the file.) You can use the photocopy to convince American authorities overseas that you are, in fact, a U.S. citizen, and you can also use it to verify your identity. You should do the same with your driver’s license and credit cards. Keep these documents separate from your wallet, and if you’re staying at a hotel, place them in the room’s safe.
IF STOLEN, CALL THE POLICE
When you’re working with the U.S. State Deartment to get a replacement passport, it’s helpful to have a police report—though it’s not required. You shouldn’t go out of your way to get one, but it’s nice to have.
PHONE A FRIEND
When you discover that your passport is gone, immediately email, text, or call a family member/friend in the U.S. Tell this person to notify the State Department’s Overseas Citizen Services (202-647-5225) of the situation. That will get the replacement-passport ball rolling. If you can’t contact anyone at home right away, don’t worry and proceed to the next step.
VISIT THE NEAREST EMBASSY
The easiest way to find the one closest to you is to look on usembassy.gov. According to the U.S. State Department, you’ll have to contact the American Citizen Services unit of the Consular Section at the embassy or consulate. Folks in that unit are responsible for replacing your passport.
AND BRING A FRIEND
If you’re traveling with American friends from home, bring one or two of them with you to the nearest embassy or consulate. They’ll be helpful in verifying your identity.
COMPLETE THE PASSPORT APPLICATION
This is where the photocopied documents come in. You’re going to need to prove that you are, in fact, you. The State Department person sitting across from you is there to be helpful but also needs to be skeptical. The more information you can provide about your citizenship, the easier and faster the situation can be resolved.
You’ll be charged the normal fees for getting a new passport, which usually exceed $120 for expedited services.
The folks in the Consular Section who help you with your replacement passport work normal, weekday business hours. Although they’re generally sympathetic to your plight, and will work hard to resolve the situation, they don’t necessarily share your urgency.