What do you do if you lose your passport overseas?

December 04, 2015
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Without too much hyperbole, your passport is pretty much the most important thing you travel with, and literally the worst thing that can happen when you’re travelling overseas is that your passport goes missing, is stolen or, in my case, is accidently destroyed.

Just because the destruction or disappearance of your passport could be the worst thing to happen when you’re travelling, it doesn’t mean you have to panic. Shit happens, but when it does, these tips will help you stay cool, calm and collected.

Making it easier for yourself

If you’re someone who’s either hopelessly clumsy or suffers from horrid bad luck, make sure you’ve got plenty of copies of your documents before you leave. Carry a number of photocopies of your passport and visa just in case something happens. Upload a copy of this info to a safe online cloud like Google Drive.  

Contact the embassy or your closest consulate-general

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a list of Australian embassies and consulates overseas. Check this out and find the one you’re closest to. For some busy embassies you’ll need to make a booking, so make sure you’ve arranged your travel plans around it.

It sucks if you need to change your plans so you can get to an embassy or consulate, but what also sucks is being fined, put in jail or being kicked out of a country and being told never to return. You stuffed up, you deal with it.

Report your lost passport

There are fees you’ll have to pay depending on if your passport was stolen, lost or destroyed. If your passport was stolen or you’ve managed to leave it behind somewhere, you need to report it immediately. The last thing you want is someone wandering around carrying your passport with their photo in it. No good can come of that.

Your new passport

Sorry for pointing out the obvious, but if you’re travelling overseas and you suddenly find yourself without a passport, you need to get yourself a new one quick smart. An Australian Emergency passport will set you back around AU$100 and usually takes a week to process. Of course, these fees and processing times will change depending on where in the world you are.

To get an Emergency passport, you’ll need to be in a consulate or an embassy, and you’ll need some government-issued ID like an Aussie driver’s licence. If you managed to destroy your passport, do yourself a favour and hold on to whatever is left of it, otherwise you might caught paying for a lost/stolen fee.

Emergency passports do have limitations on them and you need to be aware of what these mean for you. The best place to get this information would be the Australian embassy or an embassy of the country you’re travelling to.

Find out your visa status

Visas are troublesome, restrictive and sometimes expensive, but they’re necessary for gallivanting around the world. Your visas are attached to your passport and vice versa, so if your passport is MIA, you need to find out your visa status. Your visa status can be recovered from an embassy of a country you’ll be visiting. For example, if you’re in Canada and you’re visiting the United States, you can find out your status at the US embassy. Heads up: you can be hit with hefty booking fees. It cost me US$160 just to get a meeting at a US Embassy.

Visas can be tricky, so make sure you’ve got a photocopy, and make sure you visit an Australian Embassy or contact DFAT as soon as you lose your visa.

All of this information is for an Australian who’s lost their passport. For any other nationalities, this information might not be accurate. 

Keegan Thomson

Keegan is studying journalism at the University of Western Sydney. He’s an avid storyteller and global traveller whose likes include fresh bed sheets and Jeff Goldblum movies.