Losing or having your passport stolen is a nightmare. It is bad enough normally, but when you are abroad it is highly stressful and inconvenient. Whether your passport is lost or stolen the resulting drama is the same. You need to travel and do not have your passport. You need an emergency passport to resolve the problem.
There is no need to panic. You are not the first person this has happened to and you will not be the last. If you are abroad and can wait 10-15 business days, you can obtain a full replacement passport.
If you need to travel sooner you will need to obtain an emergency passport to travel. The good news is that a US embassy or consulate issue them very quickly.
What is an emergency passport?
An emergency passport is a type of passport issued to people who need to travel but do not have their passport because it is lost or stolen.
As the name suggests, an emergency passport is for those who need to travel within the coming days who simply cannot wait the 10-15 business days most embassies need to order a full replacement passport.
You can get an emergency passport from any US embassy or consulate. The document basically looks the same as an ordinary passport but has fewer pages (normally five). They do not have an internal chip and also contain a short sentence stating that the passport is a replacement for a lost or stolen one. They are only for short-term use.
What is the difference between an emergency passport and an expedited passport?
Be careful not to confuse these two terms. An expedited passport is a fast-track option for those who need a passport in less than the standard 4-6 week processing time, the majority of applicants apply from within the USA and there are numerous types of expedited passports.
An emergency passport is technically a type of expedited passport, though not all expedited passports are emergency passports.
How long is an emergency passport valid for?
Emergency passports are temporary though there is a degree of flexibility. The limited duration of the passport depends on the traveler's situation, the designated validity is normally the length of time a traveler needs to get through the emergency.
The emergency passport validity is normally for a short period of between a few weeks and a couple of months. Travelers need to renew their passport with a full replacement once they return to the US.
However, if someone can produce a travel itinerary which clearly demonstrates their traveling needs require a longer validity, it is possible to get an emergency passport extension. The validity can stretch to up to full year. This is sometimes necessary if someone is backpacking for example.
Getting an emergency passport
Once you know your passport is lost or stolen, the first thing to do is to go to a police station and make a police report. Even if you are sure it has been lost and not stolen this step is necessary. The US embassy or consulate require a copy to process the emergency passport.
The next step is to find out the opening hours of the nearest embassy or consulate. Some of them are only open for limited hours and some shut on certain days. This step is important for two reasons: firstly, so you do not waste time by going when it is closed, and secondly, so you can go as soon as it opens.
The process of getting an emergency passport can take several hours. You should go there the moment it opens to avoid queues and to allow time for any complications.
Documents to take to the US embassy or consulate
To prevent the process of obtaining an emergency passport from turning into a wild goose chase it is worth making sure you follow the process carefully and calmly. Whether the embassy is in Mexico, Canada, Europe or Asia, the documentation you need is the same.
Make sure you have all of the following documentation when you go to the embassy or consulate (sometimes it is impossible to produce all the documentation):
- Two passport photos
- Identification such as a driving license (if you have it)
- Evidence of US citizenship such as a photocopy of your missing passport, or birth certificate (if you have it)
- Your travel itinerary, such as travel tickets
- The police report
Sometimes travelers cannot produce identification or evidence of US citizenship for various reasons. The consular staff are very helpful and will do their best to resolve your emergency but missing documentation will cause the process to take longer.
The more of the above documentation you have, the simpler and quicker the process is. Unfortunately, emergency passports are not free and come at a cost. There is a fee to pay using a credit or debit card.