It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Actually, it was the worst of times. After studying abroad in Chile, I decided to make one last trip to Argentina to visit friends. After being in Buenos Aires for a total of 30 minutes, the realization hit me—I lost my passport.
…And my phone, wallet, credit cards, and Northface jacket.
How did this happen, you ask?
I took a flight from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires with a layover in Mendoza. When I arrived in Mendoza, my luggage wasn’t there. Weird, right? Considering I should’ve had to go through customs. But the airport personnel assured me it was sent straight through to Buenos Aires.
Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t there.
As I was pulling out different forms of ID and baggage receipts, I was putting everything back in my jacket pocket for convenience.
In the taxi, I got hot and took my jacket off, forgetting about it completely.
And there I was—in Buenos Aires with only my computer and a carry-on filled with shoes (this was my brilliant idea to make sure my suitcase was underweight with all the bottles of wine I brought back).
Within minutes I was skyping with my mom, trying to explain what happened through my sobbing. She, being a superhero, told me to enjoy my weekend and deal with it on Monday. I calmed down and thought clearly. I lost my passport. It was bad, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
Losing your passport is a terrifying experience, but here I am to share my experience with you in hopes that you don’t have a full-on panic attack like me.
It sounds like the worst thing that can happen, but it’s a relatively easy fix as long as you’re ready to fill out forms and gather paperwork.
Now keep in mind, I lost my cards and money too. If this happens to you, try to borrow money from someone or have a family or friend wire you money through Western Union.
Also, I’m writing this based on losing an American passport, but I imagine it’s somewhat similar for other countries.
Here’s what you should do if you lose your passport:
Don’t freak out.
First, it’s important not to lose your cool. You lost your passport and it seems like the end of the world but you will find a solution! Take a minute to think: what’s the worst that can happen?
You’ll have to spend the money for a new passport, but a year from now it won’t affect you. And it’s not like you’re going to be banned from entering the United States for your whole life. There is a solution.
If you’re traveling soon, also don’t freak out. I lost my passport just ten days before I went back to the United States. The U.S. Embassy is incredibly fast and once I had all the paperwork they issued me an emergency passport that same day.
Organize all of your documents
In order to replace your passport, you’ll need to take certain documents with you. If you have access to these documents, the process will be much faster. If you don’t have access to all of them, it’s still possible but it might take a little longer.
A passport photo: you can get this nearly everywhere for really cheap. You can even take it at home if you have a white wall and a camera that takes decent quality photos.
Identification: any identification will do (driver’s license, visa, etc.). Since I lost my driver’s license, I used my Chilean student visa and it was perfectly fine.
Proof of U.S. Citizenship: This can be the trickiest part. Something like a birth certificate or a photocopy of your missing passport are great examples, which is why you should ALWAYS (I repeat, ALWAYS) photocopy important documents before you travel! I always do and this time it came in handy.
Travel Itinerary: If you’re traveling soon, a travel itinerary can be helpful because it provides proof that you’re in a rush and that the process should be done quickly. It’s not super necessary, but it doesn’t hurt.
Police Report: If your passport was stolen then you should have a police report showing it. In my case, I just lost it (although someone probably stole it afterward), so this wasn’t necessary.
DS-11 Application for Passport: This is the typical form you would fill out if you were applying for a passport in the U.S. You can fill it out once you get to the embassy, but filling it out beforehand will save you time.
DS-64 Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport: This is just an official statement saying that you lost your passport or that it was stolen. With this form, the United States cancels the lost or stolen passport so nobody can enter the country using your identity. You can easily fill this out online.
For more information, check out the State Department’s website.
Go to the U.S. Embassy
Depending on the country, you can make an appointment online (which I recommend) or just show up and explain why you’re there. Similar to the DMV, you just take a number once you’re in and wait for your turn.
The staff member will ask you some questions, but in general, the process is easy and quick. After, they’ll tell you when to come back to claim your passport. For me, it was that same day at 4 P.M.
The cost of replacing your passport is the cost of a new passport. If you’re not in a hurry, you should be able to get a new passport issued to you.
If you are in a hurry, the embassy will issue you an emergency passport. It’s a generic passport book with an inserted sticker containing all of your information and it’s valid for one year.
Once you get back to the U.S., you can swap this emergency passport for a new passport free of charge.
Problems with Emigration
One important thing to keep in mind is that you might have problems leaving the country you’re in.
Since I didn’t have an entrance stamp in my passport, it looked like I had entered Argentina illegally. I wasn’t about to pay a fine so I went to the immigration office at the airport in Buenos Aires.
This was the most frustrating experience out of everything and it made me realize that trying to get anything done in Argentina is so unnecessarily complicated.
The officers told me they couldn’t give me an entrance stamp because I entered the country in Mendoza and would have to get it there. I had a 30-minute layover in Mendoza for my return flight but the immigration office is outside of the city, so it was impossible.
Thankfully, a very helpful airline employee went with me to talk to (and by talk to I mean yell at) the immigration officers. They finally took a break from flirting with the women inside the office to type my name into the computer where (surprise!) they found all of my information.
They clicked print and handed me the sheet so I had proof that I entered the country legally.
Make sure to research how you can solve this problem in whatever country you’re in. Or simply go to the immigration office and ask. If you wait until you’re at the airport you could end up paying a fine.
In conclusion, losing your passport is stressful. It costs time and money and it’s a boring way to spend your trip, but it’s not the end of the world and there is a solution.
Have you ever lost your passport? What was your experience like?