Your Australian passport is one of the most valuable items you'll ever own. That flimsy little booklet containing your unsmiling mugshot is your only way of crossing international borders – so the going can get pretty tough when your passport goes missing, and unfortunately you aren't likely to be going anywhere until you get a new one.
- You're required by law to report the loss or theft of a passport as soon as possible.
- Once you report your passport missing, it will be permanently cancelled.
- You cannot cross international borders without a valid passport.
- To apply for a new passport, you'll need to attend an interview, prove your citizenship and identity, provide photos and pay fees.
In Australia: Call the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) on 131 232.
If you need to travel soon (generally in the next 10 days), it's likely you'll be issued an emergency passport, which is enough to get you on a plane home or on to your next destination. However, an emergency passport will only be valid for a short time (12 months maximum) and because it won't include the biometric information that a standard passport would, you may face entry restrictions in certain countries, particularly the USA.
If you don't need to travel soon, a standard passport can be produced in Australia and couriered to the mission you're dealing with.
To apply for a new passport
- Go to online.passports.gov.au and start the application process there, if the embassy or consulate hasn't already started it for you.
- Your passport number.
- Two colour photographs 35mm to 40mm wide and 45mm to 50mm high (see Australian passport photo requirements); one photo must be endorsed and signed on the back by a guarantor.
A guarantor must be a person aged 18 or older who has known you for at least 12 months and possesses a current Australian passport issued with at least two years validity or be currently employed in one of the approved professional or occupational groups. Details of these groups can be obtained from the Australian diplomatic mission or consulate where you plan to lodge your application.
- Documents that prove your Australian citizenship and your identity.
You'll need to lodge your application in person at the embassy or consulate. And you may need to attend an interview.
So it turns out your passport was just hiding in the lining of your suitcase or tucked 'safely' in a forgotten pocket. Don't celebrate yet – if you've already reported it missing, your passport is cancelled forever. You can't use it to travel and will still have to wait for a replacement. If you try to use a cancelled passport to cross borders, you could receive a hefty fine or be arrested.
Found passports should be returned to the nearest Australian passport office or Australian diplomatic or consular mission so they can be cancelled manually.
There was a visa in my passport!
The Australian government can't replace any foreign visas for you when they replace your passport. If you had a visa in your passport, you'll need to contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country in question to enquire about applying for a replacement.
My dog ate my passport!
Loss and theft aren't the only bad things that can happen to a passport. Plenty of travellers have to apply for a new passport because of damage. According to a spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the most common ways that passports meet an untimely end are by fluid damage (spilled drinks, perspiration, a spin in the washing machine), dogs treating them as chew toys, and ink stains.
If your passport is damaged, contact your nearest Australian diplomatic or consular mission to check whether you need a new one.
Replacement passport: $178 Emergency passport overseas: $178 Priority service: $186 Overseas surcharge: Adult: $105 Child: $53
*Details correct as of June 2018. See passports.gov.au for latest fees and rules.
Tip: Your travel insurance may help cover these fees.
If your passport was stolen, rather than lost, you'll need a police report in order to claim travel insurance. Procedures will vary depending on which country you're in. If you're in a non-English speaking country, try to find an interpreter to help explain your situation to the police.
We don't tend to travel the world with our birth certificates or our latest utility bills in our suitcases, so proving your identity can be tricky. The Australian mission to the country you're in will advise you exactly what's required, but in most cases you'll need your birth certificate or citizenship certificate as primary ID, and several more items (with your photo and your current address) as secondary ID.
Tip: Rather than have your birth or citizenship certificate mailed to you, it may be possible to have a friend or family member take the document to a Passport Office in Australia and have it sighted, scanned and faxed to the mission you're dealing with.
What if I've lost my wallet and bags as well?
If this is the (very unfortunate) case, then you'll simply need to follow the advice of Australian consular officials. Procedures vary depending on the circumstances, but you may be able to secure an emergency passport.
If you have no cash and no way of accessing your bank accounts, friends or family back home can wire you money through a transfer service such as Western Union. When no other option is available, they may be able to send you money via an Australian consular money transfer system (fees may apply).
The standard turnaround time for a passport application in Australia is three weeks. If you need your passport sooner, the Australian Passport Office has a priority processing service which can produce your passport in two working days. If you're overseas, you'll need to factor in delivery time as well – the wait could be several days, or longer, depending on your location.
The wait time for an emergency passport will depend on where you are, but in most cases it can be produced locally by the diplomatic or consular mission you're dealing with.
What if I'm booked on a flight?
If you can't get a new passport or emergency passport in time, you won't be able to check in to a flight or cross international borders by land or sea. You'll need to delay your travel arrangements until you have the necessary documents.
Check with your travel insurer – depending on the circumstances, most policies should cover at least some of the cost of your altered travel plans, extra accommodation and passport application fees. Situations like these are the reason you need travel insurance!
Losing your passport puts you at risk of identity theft. While the thief won't be able to get a passport in your name, they might be able to use your lost passport as ID to get a credit card, for example.
If you're reading this after you've lost your passport, then it may be a little too late – but it's worth knowing how to avoid these kinds of dramas in the future. Or, if you're about to head overseas, read up:
Keep your passport safe at all times
Your passport is an extremely valuable document – not just to you, but to potential identity thieves.
- Keep your passport in a secure place when at home.
- When you're travelling, store it in a hotel safe if there's one available – don't leave it lying around in your hotel room.
- Some countries require that foreigners have their passports with them at all times. If this is the case, keep it on your person, not in your bag (which could easily be snatched).
- Use a money belt to carry your passport, cash, credit cards and other small essentials, and keep your passport in a zip-lock bag to protect it from water damage.
No matter how careful you are, sometimes you just have bad luck. Being prepared with the necessary information and documents could mean jumping through a few less hoops, and getting back to enjoying your holiday much sooner.
- Know your passport number – it's the first thing you'll be asked when you report your passport missing. If you don't have a good memory for numbers, write it down and email it to yourself.
- Email yourself important contact information such as the phone number of the Australian embassy in the country/countries you're travelling to, the number for the Australian Consular Emergency Centre (+61 2 6261 3305 / 1300 555 135), as well as your travel insurance details. Keep a paper copy of this information with you at all times, too.
- Take extra identification with you and keep it safe – e.g. your driving licence, credit cards, Medicare card, an item of mail with your current address. Just don't keep it all in the same bag.
- It isn't recommended that you take your birth or citizenship certificate with you, but make sure a friend or family member back home has access to it, in case it's needed.
- Pack two recent Australian passport-sized photos if you have them. This will save you having to hunt down a photographer or photo booth overseas. (Tip: Passport photo standards vary from country to country. For example, a photo taken in a photo booth in the UK or the USA will not meet the requirements for an Australian passport application.)