How to replace a lost or stolen passport when abroad

Losing or having your passport stolen when abroad is a disaster. Almost all money transactions require identification. Almost all travel requires identification. Any interaction with law enforcement requires identification. And, the only legitimate identification for an American citizen traveling abroad is a U.S. Passport.

Luckily, replacing a passport abroad is not as difficult as one might think. U.S. Embassies are extremely helpful and very efficient with respect to assisting United States citizens.

First 3 things to do when you lose your passport

Once you have retraced your steps in an effort to find a lost passport, and you are certain it is gone:

1) Get online

Before doing anything else, find the location and address of the U.S. Embassy in the country you are visiting. In addition to the address, write down the phone number of the embassy as well. If you do not have access to a computer, find the closest police station and tell them you need to contact the U.S. Embassy.

2) Get two passport photos

Make absolutely certain that the size of the photos are 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm); that distance from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head takes up 1 -1 3/8 inches (25 – 35 mm); that the photo paper is matte or glossy quality; that you are looking directly at the camera; that the background is plain or off-white; and that the photo is in color. Do not have anything on your head (unless you use head wear for religious purposes); have anything in your ears with the exception of an aid, or over your eyes except non-glare prescription glasses.

3) Go to the embassy immediately

Even if you have no money, the embassy can help you. Simply explain your situation to the guard outside and the embassy staff will take care of everything else.

Do not waste too much time looking for a lost or stolen passport. Even an emergency passport can take up to five days to arrive. Every hour you spend looking for a lost or stolen passport delays the arrival of a replacement passport.

If you request an emergency passport and then find your original, call the embassy and notify the staff immediately. Under no circumstances should you dispose of or destroy a passport.

Top 5 reasons passport photos are rejected

Do you know the primary reason why passport applications get held up? It’s because of unacceptable passport photos. In 2015 alone, the U.S. State Department received over 200,000 unacceptable passport photos. Make sure your passport application is processed smoothly and your trip goes ahead as planned by submitting an acceptable passport picture. Just be sure to avoid the top reasons passport photos are rejected:


Bad lighting can instantly ruin a photo. Whether the image is too bright, too dark, or affected by shadows, a photo with unacceptable lighting will be unacceptable to the State Department. Remember, the goal is to reflect your true skin tone and facial features without any shadows.


You may have taken the perfect headshot one year ago, but it won’t be eligible for your passport application now. Recency matters, as physical features can change over time. Your passport photo needs to have been taken within six months of submission.

Image size

Your passport photo must measure 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51mm) in size. Any photos submitted that are too big or too small will not be accepted and will delay your passport application process.


The distance between you and the camera is an important factor for your passport picture. A selfie simply won’t cut it. Passport photos require the size of your head to be between 1 and 1-3/8 inches (25 – 35mm) within a 2 X 2 inch frame. use the State Department’s smart photo tool to crop your photo to meet distance guidelines.

Image and paper quality

Blurry, grainy, and pixilated photos will not be accepted. The photo must be clear in order to properly identify you. Make sure you use a high-quality camera and size the image appropriately. Also, you cannot print your passport photo on regular printer paper. You must use matte or glossy photo-quality paper.

If you are able to avoid the common reasons passport photos are rejected, and all of your other application materials are in line, your passport application should be processed quickly and smoothly. Soon you should have no problem obtaining a picture perfect passport.

The 5 things you need to take good passport photos at home

It’s not difficult to take your own passport photos, but you do need a few key items to make it happen. These items will help you ensure a painless passport application process.

1) A good camera. The vast majority of camera phones aren’t going to be good enough for passport photos. A real digital camera, even a cheap one, should be – so long as you take the time to configure it properly. Do your homework on the specific requirements for passports from your home nation, and make sure the camera you have can manage.

2) Good lighting. Shadows or poor contrast can ruin your passport photos as easily as anything else, so make sure you have decent lighting where you’re taking pictures. A good camera can make up for a lot of the problem, but there are limitations.

3) An outfit that doesn’t break the rules. Anything that obscures your face or head is against the rules, barring a few exceptions for religious or medical needs. Most uniforms also violate the rules for passports–so do your homework and make sure you’re set.

4) A neutral expression. Easy enough if you’re taking your own photos, not too bad for older children, but potentially a major headache for young children or baby passport photos. Figure out a good way to get a neutral expression – or watch carefully for one and seize the moment before it passes.

5) An online passport photo service. While there are other ways you can use your own photos to put together a passport application, you’ll find it easiest to use a passport service online. With the help of such a service you can push your odds of being accepted on the first try to their maximum. Issues of size, quality, etc. will be addressed before your photos move on to the final application process. It makes things a lot easier.

Get these five items together, and your photos should pass through the applications process without a hitch. When you pay attention to the details, there’s not much risk of rejection – especially with an online passport service on your side.

Tips for dressing for a passport photo

It can be tempting to look your best for your passport photo – after all, these photos will likely follow you for years to come, so it makes sense that you’d want to look as stylish as possible! However, it’s important to ensure that your pursuit of style does not get in the way of the photo itself.

Here are some tips to make the most out of your passport pictures while still keeping things easy and practical. Follow these and you will be on your way in no time, passport in hand.

1. If possible, leave the glasses off

The lenses of your glasses can cover your eyes, cast shadows over your face, or catch a glare from the camera lens. To make sure that your face is not obscured when your passport photos are taken, leave the glasses off.

2. Don’t wear distracting prints

You’ll want to wear clothing that you wear on a daily basis – something that looks like “you”. However, try to keep the prints and colors of your clothing as low key as possible, so they do not distract from the most important part of the picture – your face!

3. On the other hand, avoid wearing white

If you’re getting your passport photo professionally done, chances are that you will be standing in front of a white or off-white background. You don’t want to blend into the background, so make sure you wear something colorful (but not TOO colorful, as you can see above!).

4. Avoid hats and other head coverings

Hats, scarves, helmets, earmuffs, and other head coverings should not be worn when taking your passport photo. Not only can they be bulky and distracting, but they can also cast a shadow over your face and make your features difficult to see.

5. Don’t wear jewelry

Jewelry – particularly necklaces and earrings – can catch the glare of a camera lens and ruin your passport photo. As pretty as they may be, leave your accessories at home – or save them to wear on your trip after your passport has been approved!

Photo: Glasses by jeffbr13 licensed under Creative commons 2

Passport safety tips when traveling

Most people only remember to check their passport when they have an upcoming trip. If it is close to the expiry date, you ought to take current passport pictures and make an application for renewal. While your passport is safe at home, what steps should you take to secure your passport when traveling?

Passport safety tips when traveling

Make some copies

Although you will use the original passport, there is no harm in making copies and carrying one or two with you. In the unfortunate event that you lose your passport in transit, you can use the copy to prove that you have a valid passport. The copy may not have an original passport photo, but it is enough to provide identification before you can consult the nearest US embassy.

Keep it with you or locked up

Many travelers assume that, since they are staying in an expensive hotel, there are minimal chances of losing their valuables. You should not make such an assumption. It is better to have the passport on you or securely locked when you have to leave your hotel room.

Protect it

Taking good care of your passport does not just entail keeping it safe. You ought to take great care to ensure that you protect it from the elements. The best way of protecting your passport is by keeping it in a weather-proof pocket to prevent water damage. Moisture is likely to destroy your passport photo, making it harder to identify you.

Learn about your rights

While visiting a foreign country, you need to know where you are required to provide your passport and where you do not have to present it. If you know your rights, you will avoid falling for the tricks of scammers that want your details to rob you. Apart from the airport and when booking into the hotel, few other places will insist on the production of your passport.

If you are unfortunate enough to lose your passport in a foreign country, the first step is to report the loss at the local police station. You should then ask for directions to the nearest embassy or consulate to seek further assistance.

Photo: My Passport by bryansblog licensed under Creative commons 2

Major problems to avoid with baby passport photos

Baby passport photos, and to a lesser extend all child passport photos, tend towards certain major headaches which inevitably lead to frustrated days at the photo booth, delays on receiving your passport, and outright rejections of your application. To avert these problems, it’s crucial to know about them in advance so you can take appropriate measures.

Other people in the picture

Perhaps the most common mistake made when taking baby passport photos: no other person is allowed in the picture. This can make photos somewhat difficult to take under photo booth conditions, but it’s non-negotiable – you cannot be in the picture with your baby.

Unapproved headgear

The vast majority of headgear, from hats to sunglasses, will result inevitably in your passport photos being rejected. There are very clear exceptions outlined for religious or medical needs – if you’re going to be taking advantage of these exceptions, make sure you’re 100% clear on the requirements.

Other obstructions of the face

Along the same lines as the hats and sunglasses problem, anything else that might get in between the camera and your baby’s face is a no-go as well. That includes pacifiers, scarves, and any number of other potential obstructions. You want a clear shot without anything to possibly complicate the approval process.

Non-neutral expressions.

A very common problem with baby passport photos, and one of the most difficult to overcome in many circumstances. If your baby is crying, laughing hard, or making any other major facial expression which might distort and obscure his or her features, you run the risk of having your passport photos rejected. Getting a tranquil expression can be quite a chore, but it’s a necessity.

To avoid most of these problems, or at least make them easier to deal with, using your own camera at home in combination with a passport photo service, such as Paspic, is often the easiest solution. You can take the picture on your own terms, on your own schedule – and you only need one perfect moment to grab the perfect picture. Compare that with trying to get the same results in a booth in a potentially crowded area, and you can see the advantage.

How to apply for your child’s passport

If you’re planning on traveling with a child under 16 years of age, there are a few extra steps you will need to take when applying for their passport. Here’s a short guide to help you navigate the application process.

1. Complete Form DS-11

The DS-11 is the form that you should complete on behalf of your child when applying for their passport. Bear in mind that any passport applicant, including a minor, needs to provide a social security number; however, if your child doesn’t have one yet, simply enter zeros in box number 5 on the form. Also, you shouldn’t sign your child’s passport application until instructed by the acceptance agent.

2. Show evidence of US citizenship

You need to submit a US citizenship document for your child, such as a certificate of citizenship, a US birth certificate, an expired passport or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. You must provide the true, original copy of the document rather than a photocopy or notarized copy.

3. Prove parental relationship

You will need to submit documentation that lists the child’s parents or legal guardians, such as a US birth certificate.

4. Show ID

The child’s parents or guardians need to present one form of ID to the acceptance agent, such as a fully valid, in-state driver’s license.

5. Photocopy the ID

The front and back of each type of ID presented to the acceptance agent must be photocopied.

6. Show parental consent

Both parents need to show that they consent to their child being issued with a passport, usually by appearing in person during the application process. If both parents cannot be present, evidence will need to be supplied demonstrating the reason why.

7. Take a child passport photo

Your child’s passport photo must be submitted with the application. Remember not to attach it to the form before submission.

8. Work out application costs

Calculate the application fees and execution fees, which are paid separately. Fees will differ according to whether you have applied for a passport book, card, or book and card for your child.

9. Submit the application

Once you have completed your child’s passport application and included all of the necessary evidence and documentation, you can submit it in person at a passport acceptance facility.

Photo: Passport by Tony Webster licensed under Creative commons 2

5 tips for a stress-free passport application process

Having that first passport in your hand opens up new worlds for you, or at least new countries to explore. Getting it, however, can be a stressful experience if you aren’t prepared for it.

Armed with these tips, you can enjoy a quicker, less expensive and relatively stress-free application process.

Apply early

Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for your passport. Normal passport processing takes at least four to six weeks, and sometimes longer. If you wait, you can order expedited processing, but this will cost an additional $60, and it still takes three weeks to get your passport.

Get your own passport photo

Save time and money by having your passport photo already taken and ready to go. Programs like Paspic can help you create the perfect passport picture that meets the standards for your specific country. This free service saves you time and money, and you can pick up your photo or have it shipped directly to you overnight. If you’re creating a child or baby passport photo, using this site also helps you avoid the meltdowns that often occur when having their picture taken at your local store. You can take their picture in the comfort of your own home with your smartphone or webcam.

Know if online is an option

In the US, you cannot apply for a passport online if you’ve never had one. First-time applicants must fill out Form DS-11 and bring it to an Application Acceptance location in person.

Have what you need ready

Read up on what’s required for the application process in your particular country. In the United States, applicants must present their passport photos, photo identification and a document that proves their citizenship. You should also have the fees required for the passport available.

Apply for the right passport

Planning on traveling a lot? Think about this beforehand and ask for a passport with enough pages to support your travel. If you wait until later to add extra pages, it will cost more.

Once you have your passport in hand, make sure you keep up with it and renew it before it expires. If you wait too long, you may not be able to enter certain countries.

Photo: Couple! by mynameisharsha licensed under Creative commons 2