The lowdown on your worst travel nightmare
The U.S. State Department issues around 13 million new passports every year and over 300,000 were reported lost or stolen across the country in 2012. That’s a lot of hassle for a lot of people, but the correct course of action is simpler than you think.
Of course, many may well be misplaced or pinched in a far-flung destination. Others simply fall down the back of the sofa or end up in that cunning hiding place that’s so secret you’re left on the tarmac until it turns up months later when you’ve already shelled out for a new one. Plus, what about those that get lost on the plane?
Here’s what to do:
First, you have no choice but to alert the nearest embassy or consulate and they will take matters into their hands and ensure that your passport is cancelled and you’re not stranded in a foreign land. It will be a help if you’ve made a copy of your passport’s first page and can show that to the embassy folks.
Second, if you’re at home and you can’t find it: look, look and then look again before you report it missing. A cancelled passport will be obsolete within 24 hours once you make that call, so no matter if it turns up behind the fridge two days later, you’re out of luck. You’ll still have to pay and wait for your new one to arrive.
Finally, if you’re unlucky enough to have your passport to go missing on the aircraft, you should know that the airline will make every effort to trace you and return it, so stay in touch. Most carriers do a full search of passenger databases when they recover a misplaced passport. However, initiating contact yourself is advisable, particularly if you don’t know exactly where you lost it. Lines of communication can sometimes get crossed and the airline is required to return the document to the State Department if they cannot trace you.
Once the State Department has it, your precious ticket to the friendly skies will go in a large and very destructive machine and come out in tiny little bits. You have been warned.