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What to Do If You Lose Your Passport in a Foreign Country

Lessons learned after a pickpocket encounter on a Paris train

woman admiring scenic view of Eiffel Tower

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En español | Losing your passport in a foreign country can be a travel nightmare — or at least a major headache — as I discovered after I recently fell victim to crafty pickpockets on the Paris metro. It was not the end of the world, but I learned valuable lessons that, had I known them earlier, would have made my experience far easier and less traumatic.

The drama began when someone strategically placed a hard-sided suitcase in the middle of the exit door on a crowded subway train during rush hour.

At my destination, I was in a crush of people and had to move to the right side of the suitcase to exit. My shoulder bag was pushed behind me and, in a matter of seconds, my wallet, passport and credit cards were gone.

The good news: Once I filled out and printed the forms (DS-64 and DS-11, available online at to report the loss and get an emergency replacement, I had a temporary passport in hand in less than two hours after arriving at the U.S. Consulate.

A few things you can do to make the experience as hassle free as possible (or prevent it altogether).

  • Before you leave home, look up and record the locations, email addresses and phone numbers of the U.S. consulates and embassies in all countries you'll be visiting. If you lose your passport, the consulate can help you determine where and when you can get it replaced.
  • Make a copy of your passport's identification pages and keep it in a separate place from the passport during your travels. Having the stolen/lost passport number and other details will be a big help when filling out the forms.
  • Bring your driver's license and, if you want to be really prepared, a copy to include in the paperwork package for the passport replacement.
  • When out and about, leave your passport in a hotel safe, or if you must keep it with you, carry it in a purse or money belt you can wear under your clothes.
  • Keep receipts for everything related to the passport replacement, even transportation receipts; there is a chance your household insurance may cover some or all of the costs related to the theft.
  • Keep U.S. dollars or a credit card separate from your passport and wallet. You'll need it to pay $145 for a temporary passport (good for a year). You'll also receive a State Department letter that you later can enclose with your request for a permanent passport to avoid paying $145 again.
  • You should report your stolen passport to the local police when overseas. You can then bring a copy of the police report to the consulate to request a new one.
  • If you're signed up with Global Entry — a program allowing approved travelers expedited customs clearance upon arrival in the U.S. — your new, temporary passport number won't match the now-canceled number on file unless you update your passport information online. Otherwise you'll need to stand in line with everyone else on your return to the U.S., even with your temporary card.

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