We’ve broken down the stressful process with the steps to take, forms to fill out, and other important reminders.
Losing your passport is a frightening and confusing experience. Whether you can’t locate that all-important blue book at home or have misplaced it on the road, it’s possible to get another one quickly. And, speaking from personal experience, the process of replacing a lost passport can be inconvenient and stressful, but it works.
What to do first
Once you’ve pored over every corner of your room, jacket pockets, hotel safe, and suitcase, the first thing you should do is report your lost or stolen passport so that it can be canceled. You can do this online, via phone, or by mail. Your passport is no longer valid as soon as it’s been reported lost or stolen, so canceling it online or by phone are the best options to prevent anyone else from using your passport immediately.
Next, follow the standard application forms to apply for a new passport. If you’re in the United States, you’ll need to use form DS-11, which is specific to missing passports. This must be done in person at a passport acceptance facility (including some post offices), where documents are processed and then mailed to a passport office. You can make an appointment online, but if you have travel plans within three weeks, it is better to go to a passport agency, which can handle the application on the spot or at least within a few days.
Am I stranded if I lose my passport while in a foreign country?
Not necessarily, but your travel plans may be slightly derailed. After you’ve reported the passport missing, visit the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. This may mean that you have to travel to a different city within that country to locate the embassy. To return to the United States, you must apply for and receive a new passport. You might be able to use a passport card if you’re entering by land from Canada and Mexico, but once you cancel your passport, your passport card will become invalidated, too.
When visiting the embassy, bring a passport photo, another form of government-issued identification (like a driver’s license), proof of U.S. citizenship (this is where a photocopy of your passport does the trick), and your travel itinerary. Since this process will get delayed even further if you've also lost your government-issued identification, we recommend keeping photocopies of your documents somewhere you else you access, such as on your phone or in your Google Drive. Two forms must be completed for an in-person application overseas: DS-11 and DS-64. One of the forms includes a statement on the circumstances of how and where you lost your passport. If you believe your passport was stolen, it is helpful (although not necessary) to file a police report.
Replacement passports can be issued within a day or two if needed, but only during business hours (weekends and holidays may add extra wait time). And make sure to consider any necessary visas that some countries require for entry and exit. Because they were issued in conjunction with the original passport, they will need to be reapplied for, which can add extra time and cost. You will need the replacement passport before you can apply for any necessary visas.
Some important tips to remember
It’s a smart move to make a copy of your passport (or snap a photo on your phone) and keep it separate from your passport book. It’s not possible to travel using a photocopy (or just your passport number if you have it memorized), but this information can help expedite the process for embassy officials if you’re overseas.
If you find your original passport but it has already been canceled, it is no longer valid.
When your new passport arrives, it should be valid for the standard 10 years unless you have lost your passport once before. If the latter is the case, your new one will only be valid for a year—and you won’t be eligible for a full-validity passport for another 10 years (assuming you don’t lose it again in that time period). That means you'll have to reapply every year for 10 years—good incentive to keep your passport somewhere safe. If you were issued an emergency passport overseas, this may also be limited in validity. This means that within six months, you will have to apply for a new passport again and pay additional passport renewal fees ($110), but that new passport will be valid for the standard 10 years.
Travel insurance can help cover the associated cost of getting a replacement passport (including flight change fees), but before you fork over for insurance, check to see if the credit card you used to pay for the trip includes similar benefits to reimburse any expenses.
If you have two valid U.S. passports (yes, it’s possible to get a second passport), you will still need to apply for a new one to get home if you are traveling with only one. If you have both with you, then you can use the second one to get home. If you lose your passport in the United States, you can still use your other passport to travel while you apply for a replacement, because it has a different number.
If you have Global Entry membership that was tied to your lost passport, you don’t need to reapply for the trusted traveler program. But once you have your new passport, you’ll need to log into the trusted traveler program website and enter your new passport number. The same is true with the Mobile Passport app, which will also require your new passport number.