Ending up with a stolen American passport is the stuff of nightmares. Hundreds of American passports are stolen per year. Movies depict it and wary ex-travelers warn of their trips to uncertainty and back. But, as long as you keep your head and remain calm, you can get through this and even make the most of the rest of your trip.
The motivation behind stealing passports is pretty obvious. Money drives markets. Passports from rich regions like North American, Japan or the EU can command high prices. People are willing to pay for the opportunity for more freedom of travel. In many parts of the world, a few thousand dollars are enough to tempt people into getting involved in illegal activities like this.
One of the biggest problems when you have a missing new passport is not stressing out. Keep your calm and try to go back to places you might have left it. Hotel staff can also help you. Contact management and let them know that you are actively looking for your passport. Check other restaurants and attractions to see if they found anything.
Once these bases are covered, you will need to make a beeline for the embassy or consulate nearest your current location. If you have a while to travel, you can even call them to make an appointment so you do not waste more time than you have to. Most American citizen services sections will make appointments so you don’t have to wait.
While most information now is online and records will be more easily available than in the past, you should still try to come up with as much supporting documentation as possible. These documents can help establish your identity in a more timely fashion. A birth certificate, a social security card or a driver’s license can really make a difference. Even copies are worth bringing.
Since a stolen passport is such a serious matter, you can just turn up at any time really. Clearly state that your passport has been stolen so they can get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Usually, though, the American Citizen Services section of US embassies is open for applications in the morning before noon, so you might find more staff during those times.
Your airline may also request proof that you reported your passport stolen if you have to make last-minute changes. The extra time and travel spent getting a new passport may require you to change your departure date. You will find your carrier much more cooperative if you have the proper documentation from the embassy.
Where things can get confusing is when you need a visa for the country you are in. Getting this replaced will come a close second behind reporting your passport to the embassy. While American embassies cannot issue visas to other countries, the staff should be able to give you addresses and phone numbers of the appropriate offices. The exact nature of this process will depend on the country you are in.
While it would be incorrect to say that you are in good company, there are certainly plenty of other people out there who have experience dealing with a stolen US passport. Each year, unwitting travelers find themselves stuck in a country without papers. Thankfully, there are systems in place that make getting a replacement passport application easier than ever.