Passports and visas are official travel documents that all foreign citizens coming to the United States must have to show one’s country of citizenship and legal status in the U.S., as well as to enter and leave the country. Losing these important documents can be very stressful – here’s a short guide to help relieve some of that stress and move forward.
First of all, don’t worry. Your visa is needed only to enter the United States; it has no relevance to your stay here after entry. In other words, if you happen to lose your visa while already in the country, you may remain the entire length of your authorized stay (as shown on your admission stamp or Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record) without any problems. You will, however, need a valid passport to depart the United States and enter another country. For information on how to replace your passport and visa, follow the steps outlined below.
Make sure your passport/visa are actually lost and not just misplaced. Search your home, luggage, wallet/purse, and anywhere else you may have stored them. Ask family members and travel partners if they have any knowledge of the documents’ location.
File a Police Report
If you still cannot find your passport/visa, go to your local police station and report your document(s) lost or stolen. If you have copies of the original documents, bring them with you. You will then be issued a police report detailing the incident. Make a copy of the report for your own records.
Report Loss of Your Passport
Contact or visit your country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S. to notify them of your missing passport and for instructions on how to obtain a new one. If you think your passport has been stolen, reporting this will help guard against fraudulent use. It is extremely important that you perform a thorough search before you report it lost or stolen, because once reported, your passport is no longer valid for travel. However, if you find your passport after having reported it lost or stolen, it may still be used as a valid form of personal identification.
- If you do not have another form of photo identification, contact your country’s embassy/consulate to find out what alternate documents you may need.
Report Loss of Your Visa
To report your visa lost or stolen, email the U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the United States that issued your visa. Go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website to locate the corresponding email address and contact information. Be sure to include your full name, date and place of birth, current address in the United States, and your email address. Clarify whether your visa was lost or stolen, and if you have a copy of it include it in the email. If you know the category of visa you have or your passport number, include these too.
Like your passport, if you have already reported your visa as lost or stolen to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate but later find it, your visa will be invalid for future use, and you will have to apply for a new one.
Applying for a Replacement U.S. Visa
For future travel into the United States, you will need a new visa. Unfortunately, lost or stolen visas cannot be replaced in the United States. For replacement, you must apply in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. When you apply for a visa replacement, you will need:
- A written account documenting the loss of your passport and visa
- A copy of the police report
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
- Again, you won’t have any problems remaining as long as originally authorized, but you will need a new passport before you return home. The replacement process can take time, so begin as soon as possible to ensure that you have a new one in time for your return trip.
- Some embassies and consulates may offer faster processing procedures, so ask if them if there is a way to process the new passport quickly.
- Traveling while you wait for your new passport can be risky, so try to postpone travel plans until you receive your new passport.
- If you need to complete an I-9 for employment (employment verification form), wait until you have your new passport before processing the form.
One Last Tip
We recommend making copies of all travel documents in your possession as soon as possible after arriving in the United States. These include your passport biographic page, visa, and admission stamp or Form I-94. That way, if you do lose one or all of these important documents, the recovery/replacement process will be that much easier. Remember to stay calm, follow the procedures outlined here, and respond to all questions and embassy/consulate employees honestly and accurately – before you know it, you’ll be along your way as if nothing ever happened. Safe travels!