Need to know
- You're required by law to report the loss or theft of a passport as soon as possible
- Passport processing times are currently shorter than normal as fewer people are travelling overseas
- Once more international borders open up, the wait time may increase significantly
Your Australian passport is one of the most valuable items you'll ever own.
Even while most of our international borders remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still one of the most trusted and secure forms of ID. Not only that, as more people get vaccinated and travel bubbles open, you'll want to be travel-ready when those borders open again.
So, do you know where your passport is right now? And are you sure it hasn’t expired or needs to be renewed? What should you do if it has gone astray and how do you get a new one?
In Australia: Call the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) on 131 232.
Overseas: Contact your nearest Australian diplomatic or consular mission in the country of application.
Go to online.passports.gov.au and start the application process there, if an embassy or consulate hasn't already started it for you.
- To say that your former passport was lost or stolen and that you're applying for a replacement. (Passports that have been reported lost or stolen, or cancelled for any other reason, aren't eligible for streamlined renewal.)
- Two colour photographs that are 35mm to 40mm wide and 45mm to 50mm high. The size of the face from chin to crown can be up to a maximum of 36mm and a minimum of 32mm (see Australian passport photo guidelines).
- Documents that prove your Australian citizenship and your identity.
- A referee or a guarantor.
Referee vs guarantor?
If you're applying for your passport online, you'll need to nominate a referee who's willing to confirm your identity if they're contacted.
Otherwise you'll need a guarantor to sign your application form and endorse and sign the back of one passport photo.
A referee or guarantor must be an adult Australian citizen who has known you for at least 12 months. They can't be related to you, married to you, in a de facto relationship with you, or share your home address. You'll need to give their full name, phone number, and either their current Australian passport details or the address at which they've been on the electoral roll for the past 12 months.
Your passport is an extremely valuable document – not just to you, but to identity thieves too
These requirements may vary for overseas applicants. Contact the Australian diplomatic or consular mission in your country of application for further details.
What documents will I need?
You'll need an Australian birth certificate or Australian citizenship certificate, documents that prove any change of name or change of sex, and other identity documents that show your photo and your current residential address.
If you were born in Australia on or after 20 August 1986, you must provide other documents as evidence of your Australian citizenship.
How to lodge your application
You'll need to lodge your application in person at an Australia Post branch or Australian diplomatic or consular mission.
However, due to COVID-19, there may be restrictions in place, depending on the state or city requirements at the time you apply.
Generally, branches of Australia Post ask that customers abide by the capacity requirements of their building, maintain a 1.5m distance at all times, practise good hygiene, wear a mask when required, and not enter the store if they have cold or flu-like symptoms.
For Australian diplomatic or consular missions, country-specific restrictions may limit your ability to attend face-to-face appointments for a new passport. Contact the embassy in the country where you are for further details.
The standard turnaround time for a passport application in Australia is three weeks. But because far fewer people are travelling overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic, processing times are currently shorter than normal. Once international borders open up, the wait time may increase significantly.
If you need your passport sooner, the Australian Passport Office has a priority processing service that 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 and postal delays resulting from the pandemic.
Email your passport number and important contact information to yourself before you travel
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 in a couple of days.
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 have 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.
If you need to travel soon (generally in the next 10 days), it's likely you'll probably be issued an emergency passport – or limited validity passport (UK only), which is enough to get you on a plane home or on to your next destination.
But an emergency passport will be valid only for a short time (12 months) and because it won't include the biometric information of a standard passport, you may face entry restrictions in certain countries.
Currently, foreign countries have varying restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which may limit your ability to apply in person at an Australian embassy or consulate. Please contact the Australian diplomatic or consular mission in the country where you are for further details.
What if I don't have the right ID with me?
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 diplomatic 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 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.
The Australian government can't replace any foreign visas for you when it renews your passport.
If you had a visa in your lost or stolen passport, you'll need to contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country in question to ask whether you should apply for a replacement.
Some visas are electronic so there may be no physical evidence of them in your passport to worry about.
If your passport was stolen rather than lost, you'll need a police report to claim travel insurance and renew your passport.
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.
What if I've lost my wallet and bags as well?
If this is the (very unfortunate) case, you'll 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.
You'll need to file a police report if your passport has been stolen.
Tips for keeping your passport safe
Your passport is an extremely valuable document – not just to you, but to identity thieves too.
- Keep your passport in a secure place when at home.
- When you're travelling, store it in a hotel safe if there is one – don't leave it lying around your hotel room.
- Some countries require foreigners to have their passports with them at all times. If so, 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 ziplock bag to protect it from water damage.
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, ink stains, perspiration, a spin in the washing machine) and dogs treating them as chew toys.
If you try to use a cancelled passport to cross borders, it will be kept at the airport and you won't be permitted to travel
If your passport is damaged, call the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 131 232 or, if you're outside Australia, contact your nearest Australian embassy or consulate.
The process of renewing your passport is essential, not only to make sure it's valid once Australia's international borders open fully, but also because some countries don't let visitors enter on a passport that expires in less than six months.
If you're planning to visit New Zealand or have permission to travel to another country – to visit an unwell family member, for example – be sure to allow enough time to renew or apply for your passport.
If you're in Australia, you can get a passport application form at your local Australia Post, fill it out with a pen, gather the necessary identity paperwork and photographs, and lodge it all at Australia Post.
This is an easier way for eligible Australians to renew their passport, as you'll need only your application checklist or form, two passport photos and your most recent passport.
To qualify, you must be an adult with an Australian passport which is still current or which expired less than three years ago. The passport must also have:
- been issued when you were aged 16 or older
- had at least two years of validity when it was issued
- been issued with your current name, date of birth, place of birth and sex
- never been reported stolen, lost or cancelled.
You can get a streamlined renewal application form at Australia Post.
What if I don't qualify for streamlined renewal?
Then you'll need to have original supporting documents that prove your citizenship and identity. You'll also need to nominate a referee or guarantor. For more information visit passports.gov.au.
Can't I just get a replacement passport instead?
There's a significant difference between 'renewing' your Australian passport and 'replacing' it.
A passport replacement is only for Australians whose passport has run out of pages or is damaged, or who have changed their family name or sex, or are updating their passport photographs. This service is free in some circumstances and comes with a reduced fee in others. The replacement passport is valid only as long as the passport it's replacing (i.e. it's not a renewal).
Passport replacement is not an option for Australians who have lost or had their passport stolen. The only option in these cases is to apply for a new passport, as detailed above.
Don't try to use a cancelled passport – it will be confiscated at the airport.
I've found my lost passport – now what?
So your 'lost' passport was actually 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.
This means 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, it will be kept at the airport and you won't be permitted to travel.
No matter how careful you are, sometimes you're just unlucky. Being prepared with the necessary information and documents could mean jumping through fewer 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 or 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 of the Australian Consular Emergency Centre (+61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 within Australia), 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
For example, your driver's licence, credit cards, Medicare card, an item of mail with your current address. Just don't keep it all in the same bag. Taking your birth or citizenship certificate with you isn't a good idea, but make sure a friend or family member back home can get hold of it, if necessary.
Pack two recent Australian passport-sized photos
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.)
Renewal passport (valid for 10 years): Adult: $301; Child aged five years and under, or adult aged 75 years and over: $152
Replacement passport: $189
Emergency passport overseas: $189
Priority service: $220 (additional fee)
Overseas surcharge: Adult: $135; Child: $66
Details are correct as of June 2021. See passports.gov.au for the latest fees and rules.
Tip: Your travel insurance may help cover the fees for lost or stolen passports.