Thanks to the U.S. government’s full implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in 2009, more Americans than ever have passports.
That logically adds up to more Americans than ever trying to remember where they stashed the little blue book or, worse, having it fall into the wrong hands.
I have some experience with the latter and here offer my tale of idiocy for your benefit:
After returning home from a trip, I neglected to remove my passport from the interior pocket of my purse. Months later, I managed to let that purse get stolen.
After replacing the locks on the house, getting new car keys, cancelling and replacing all of my cards and ID, notifying the Social Security administration, having our bank accounts closed and otherwise trying to protect our property and financial assets, it finally dawned: Passport. Gone.
Here’s what happens next:
1. If yours is stolen or missing out in the world, not simply lost in your house, report it to law enforcement and keep a record that you did.
2. Phone the State Department. Call 1-877-487-2778 from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays. Then go to http://travel.state.gov<DP>/passport/forms/<DP>ds64/ds64_845.html, print and complete Form DS-64. It’s quite simple, asking for your basic information and some information about the missing passport. Then fill out a new passport application (Form DS-11). Take both, plus the usual supporting identification documents for a passport application, to a passport acceptance facility — there’s one at the Stearns County administration center. You’ll pay a passport application fee.
4. Don’t travel out of the country, even if you recover the original passport. As soon as you report it missing, it has been invalidated. You must get a new one.
5. When the new passport arrives, marvel at the challenge of all those blank pages, then try to find where they printed “This is a replacement for a stolen (or lost) passport.” It’s there. I promise.
6. If you eventually get the original back, the State Department wants it. They’ll physically invalidate it (punch a hole) so it can’t be nefariously used. But they will send it back if you want it as a souvenir.