A couple of months ago I was in Antigua in Guatemala. Leaving the arrivals hall (having been though passport control) Tim, my husband realised he had lost his passport… thank-god it wasn’t me was my first reaction!
Having emptied our pockets a thousand times and exhausted all the options with airport authorities, (communicating in appalling Spanish), we left the airport exasperated with a feeling of vulnerability, wondering how this could have happened to us. The realisation we were now captive in a foreign, non English-speaking country was not a great feeling.
We called Internal Affairs in New Zealand who were incredible, talking us through our options. As a result, we started the online process for a replacement passport and they agreed to process the application immediately on completion.
The process was easy until we got to the mandatory digital photo!
Stripping off the hotel bed-sheets to provide a backdrop for the photo we couldn’t get the specs right. In desperation we found a local professional photographer but with language difficulties we couldn’t convey the specific photo requirements.
Eventually with the help from Catchlights Photography in NZ they amended the photo and the passport application was accepted.
With a 24-hour turn-around and the ability to track the passport’s journey we were delighted when it landed in LAX from Auckland on Air NZ 6. Just one more flight to Guatemala, we thought.
Foolishly we celebrated, however, we soon realised this was only the beginning of the passport’s journey. Over the next five days we watched the passport as it did a ‘Where’s Wally.’
As it left LAX, instead of heading south to Guatemala it headed north to Cincinnati, Ohio close to the Canadian border. Why we asked? Then it headed east to Miami before travelled south, over shooting Guatemala by 2,000 kilometres before landing in Panama City. Another layover and a short leap to San Jose in Costa Rica. Finally, it reached Guatemala.
If geography is not your strong point, don’t worry. All you need to know is watching this passport zig -zag its way across the USA and Central America was stressful, not to mention the hefty expenses and disruption to our travel plans.
So here are a few tips should you ever find yourself without your passport.
There are two options
You can get a replacement passport or an emergency travel document which can be a quicker alternative but it can also pose complications. An emergency travel document is only designed to enable you to return home quickly.
If you are routed through the USA, as we were, you can’t get a USA Waiver Visa online. Instead, must present yourself to the USA authorities, whether it be an Embassy or Consulate depending on where in the world, for an interview before a visa can be issued.
Before you leave home
- Ensure your travel insurance policy covers loss or theft of your passport. (The cost of a new passport, telephone calls to the NZ Passport Office, changing airfares and additional accommodation adds up very quickly).
- Have a digital passport photo (to NZ Passport specifications) on your electronic devices.
- Have a record of your passport number.
What to do if your passport is stolen or lost?
- Obtain a police report
- Call the New Zealand Passport Office to tell them you have lost or had your passport stolen +64 4 463 9360
- Decide whether to apply for a replacement passport ($360 NZD) or an emergency travel document ($500 NZD) – this fee also includes the cost of a replacement passport)
- Fill out the required application with a digital photo taken in the last six months, in colour, as a .JPG or .JPEG file (it’s important to note NZ’s photo requirements are very specific so check online)
- You will need an identity referee who is not a partner or family member and holds a New Zealand passport.
- New Zealand passports can only be issued in New Zealand, London and Sydney.
- Ask the passport office to courier it to you directly for an additional fee, if it’s urgent.
For all information www.passport.govt.nz