Things you didn't know about losing your passport

Just a final follow up on the saga of my stolen passport. This has been a learning experience on a number of levels for me.

When you are traveling, if you lose your passport or it gets stolen, you must visit a US embassy or consulate's office to obtain a new passport. They is deemed an emergency situation. As such the passport they issue you is called an "emergency passport."

There are several things I did not know before going through this process. Firstly, you are not given a new full passport, instead it's a limited use emergency passport.

What are the limitations you ask? Here's the one's I am aware of.

  • Time limit: It's only valid for 12 months from date of issue
  • Size: It only has 12 pages in it
  • Usage: It's not a microchipped passport, so it doesn't work through any of the automated custom's systems, meaning you'll have to talk to a custom's official each time you cross a border.
  • Acceptance: Not all countries that accept a full US passport will accept the emergency passport. Countries I know for sure that won't are France, Belgium and Morocco, but there could be more.

The passport is clearly meant to get you out of your emergency, and ideally back to the United States, where you can go through the process of applying for a new full passport.

A couple other interesting things about this emergency process.

  • Typically if you were applying for a new passport while overseas, you would need to make an appointment at the embassy. When I looked, the nearest appointment here in Madrid was about two months out. Thankfully, given its emergency status, you can simply walk into the embassy without an appointment. Be aware though, they have limited hours for this. Again in Madrid, the hours were 8am – 11am ... not exactly a lot of time.
  • Timeline: I was expecting it to take at least a couple of days for them to process the request, but they actually turned it around same day. I arrived at the embassy at 10am, and they told me to come back at 1pm to pick it up. When I arrived at 1pm, it was ready and waiting. Surprisingly painless!
  • Cost: It does cost slightly more than getting a full passport, but only by a little. My cost totaled $165.00, which I think is only $15.00 more than normal.

So while I do have a passport again, meaning I can leave Spain before my Schengen visa expires, I'm still in a bit of a pickle.

Most countries have some passport requirements when admitting you to their country. The two most common are:

  • Validity beyond your stay, typically between three and six months
  • Empty pages in the book, typically one or two pages

This presents a small conundrum, given that the passport only has 12 months of validity, only 12 pages in the book and my plan to continue traveling.

Thankfully I can apply for a full passport while still overseas. Some interesting points regarding this process as well.

  • Process: All full passports are now processed exclusively in the US. Not sure if that didn't use to be the case, but it is now.
  • Options:
    • Via Mail: Requires you have somewhere for them to mail it back to you at and you have to send them the emergency passport as well.
    • In Person: Apparently this option will allow me to retain the emergency passport, but does require making an appointment to do so, and as mentioned appointments seem less than easy to coordinate.
  • Cost: FREE! I couldn't believe it when the agent told me it was free to upgrade. I assumed it would be the cost of another full passport, plus the shipping.
    • There are limitations here such as needing to do it during the 12 months of validity.

This all works well for me and my future plans. My working itinerary has been to bop around the Schengen till the beginning of May in order to have full Schengen visa access later in the year. So I was planning on heading to the Balkans three months in order to reset that visa. In August I was planning on re-entering the Schengen and rocking up in Italy for a full three months, where both Eli and my sister plan to visit me at separate times.

So my plan now is to continue with that plan, and when I arrive in Italy, I will visit either the embassy in Rome or a consulate's office Milan or Naples, and start the process of getting the full passport.

So the passport situation is on track and I'm feeling good about that. The Covid card and proof of vaccination status, however, are not ideal.

I spent a good couple of hours, and over 11 department transfers trying to figure out if its even possible to get a new card, and/or if there was an app of my phone that would serve the same purpose.

Here in the EU they have a unified app that generates a barcode when needed. Its simple and easy. Not entirely sure how the country that invented apps hasn't been able to do the same thing in the 2+ years we've been in this pandemic ... but I digress.

For now I'm left with a mishmash of options.

  • Photo of my original card on my phone
  • The MyHP app from Health Partners (my previous health provider), which shows only the dates of my first two doses. It does not include my booster shot, or the Lot # of the first two doses. Pretty pointless if you ask me.
  • Docket app, which taps into the same database as the HP app does, but somehow returns different data. In the case of Covid it actually shows all three doses AND the Lot #s and dates.

I'm hopefully that combination of these three items will be enough to satisfy anyone that asks for proof of vaccination, which honestly, I've only been asked for once since I've been on the road.

Lastly, is the credit card situation. This one also looks to be sorted out, at least enough for me to move forward.

As mentioned, I was smart enough not to keep all my cards in one place, so I really only lost my main card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and my Charles Schwab debit card, which I have because of its ATM fee reimbursement program.

I have been fortunate to know someone who was also in Spain and staying with someone with a permanent address in Barcelona. So I had Chase expedite a new card to them, which I will pick up tomorrow.

Thanks to the wonder of apps, I was able to immediately lock the card after the theft. And in an odd twist, have been able to continue to use the card via Apple Pay on my phone whilst it was locked. Don't ask me how that works, but I'm sorta glad it did.

As for the Schwab card, for now I'm just not going to worry about it. I've not needed it yet, here in Western Europe and if I'm smart about my usage, I should be able to keep the fees to a minimum while traveling through the Balkans for the next few months.

So that's it! Just a little information about emergency passports that I'm guessing anyone that hasn't lost a passport wouldn't know. Hopefully this helps someone be a little less stressed if it ever happens to them.

I will have to be mindful about how many countries I visit in the Balkans, so as to not run into the issue of not having enough pages in my book, but otherwise, its full steam ahead!

As mentioned, I'm off to Barcelona in the morning to collect my new Chase card. I'll be there for about 5 days before setting off to the Balkans, with Zagreb, Croatia being my first stop.

I still plan on writing about my time in Alicante, so look for that post in the next few days or so.

Until then, here's a few pictures from my "forced" stay in Madrid.