What to do if you've lost your Canadian passport

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      At home or abroad, here’s how to make the replacement process less painful.

      When I travel, I wear a money belt under my clothing, practically tattooed on my lower back. Among other things, it contains my passport, which I haven’t let out of my sight in years of travel. In hostels, I sleep with it under my pillow and hang it near me when I shower. Returning from a recent trip, I showed my passport to a customs official at YVR and promptly tucked it into its rightful place. Back in my apartment, I breathed a sigh of relief as I flung it on a closet shelf.

      Three weeks later, when I went to retrieve it for a trip to the U.S., I couldn’t find it. How you can lose something that’s hand-sized in a one-bedroom apartment I will never know. But after six hours of searching through closet shelves, laundry bins, and filing cabinets, as well as under bathroom cabinets, I was still at a complete loss. My trip—for which I had prepaid transportation, accommodation, and theatre tickets—started in four days. After wailing repeatedly “How? Why? How?”, then blaming my husband, then blaming my cat, I finally gave up looking, hung my head, and admitted my utter stupidity.

      Then I got busy on a new passport application.

      At least I had the luxury of getting my passport replaced in my hometown rather than at some far-flung embassy. The bureaucratic part wasn’t too bad, but the financial aspect stung. Let’s see: $13 for passport photos, $87 for a new passport, and $30 for express three-day service. (At least I didn’t need the 24-hour, $70 service.) Then there was $56 for the most smartly located notary in Vancouver—whose office is down the hall from the downtown passport office—to watch me swear that my passport wasn’t under my sofa cushions. Grand total: $186.

      Wondering how difficult the process would have been had I been abroad, I consulted a Passport Canada brochure on-line at www.ppt.gc.ca. “Should your passport be lost or stolen while you are abroad, you must immediately report the incident to the local police and the nearest Canadian government office,” it reads. “Once a passport has been reported lost or stolen, it is no longer valid.”

      I called Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa to find out more. “A Canadian passport is worth a lot on the black market,” said spokesperson André Lemay. “For security reasons, we need to find out what happened.”

      He noted that travellers should immediately call the nearest Canadian Embassy or consulate, which will advise them on whether it’s necessary to file a police report. “If for some reason the embassy is closed, all calls are sent back to Ottawa and the phones are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Lemay stated. That’s even on statutory holidays.

      How fast can a passport be replaced when you’re overseas? “It depends,” he explained, on how remote your location is and how it was lost or stolen. “It’s a question of going through the security checks.” But Lemay assured me that if circumstances are urgent, it’s possible to get a new passport within days.

      Having access to supporting documents will speed up the application. Before your trip, “make two photocopies of the personal information page of your passport,” advises Passport Canada’s brochure. “Leave one copy with family or friends and keep the other in a different place from your passport.”

      The agent who processed my application told me that losing a passport once isn’t that big a deal. But if I lose it again, I could get a note on my file that could cause problems for me in the future. She advised me to bring in my old, cancelled passport if I found it, and they would amend my file.

      Whether you’ll be penalized for repeated losses, Lemay said, depends entirely on the circumstances under which the passport went missing, frequency of losses, et cetera. “It’s a question of security, just to make sure there’s not a trend,” he said. “We want to make sure that people are not selling their passport, trading their passport.”

      Of course, I did eventually find my original passport. It had fallen off an end table and into a dark corner, where it was wedged between baskets of dusty DVDs.

      So what did I learn from this experience?

      1. Treat your passport with as much respect at home as you do abroad.

      2. Always locate your passport and verify its validity well before you need to travel.

      3. Make copies of your passport and ensure that you have easy access to them when you’re on the road.

      4. Powder your face before your passport-photo session. According to the photographer at London Drugs, the passport office could have rejected the first set of pictures, in which the flash reflected off my shiny forehead, creating shadows and glare. She sent me over to Cosmetics, where I hung my head as the nice salesperson powdered it before the free reshoot.

      5. Consider wearing powder every day.

      Comments

      9 Comments

      victor

      Mar 15, 2010 at 12:32pm

      i will be very happy if get the Canadian passport i will be very till the end of the time cos is my dream come true....

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      Elliot

      Nov 21, 2011 at 7:50pm

      I feel your pain Carolyn, I've just spent 3 full days searching my house with no luck. I'm usually so good with these things, I don't know where the hell I lost it.

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      Joy

      Nov 28, 2011 at 1:10am

      In years of travel I have always followed the above advice. Now, I am in Mexico and ALL my id is gone, in the back of a taxi. Getting a new passport will be so much more complicated and expensive here than Caroline's experience. So, I'll add to her advice: keep your id in separate places with copies of all.

      Victor, I hope you get your Canadian passport.

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      Money Mehdi

      Dec 20, 2011 at 10:33am

      I lost my passport so I just snuck in the plane :)

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      scatterbrain

      Apr 29, 2012 at 9:46am

      I live in Ontario and have travel booked for my kids, myself, and 3 other people to do to Disney in a month. I hope they will expedite my application because I looked so hard that I considered ripping apart this weeks garbage and recycling, so I'm glad I'm not alone. I can't imagine saying to the kids, sorry, no Disney, mommy is an idiot. This after two weeks ago losing my van keys which are chip keys and cost me $250 to replace, and I found them the day I went to get the van, in a empty box???? So who knows where the passport it, maybe it is the cats.

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      gabby

      May 3, 2013 at 11:17am

      nice

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      Chynna

      May 6, 2013 at 4:46pm

      I understand, I'm a Canadian citizen currently stuck in Ireland because I lost my passport and its a holiday here so the embassy is closed. Wanna take bets I won't make my Thursday 9am flight since its 1am Tuesday here.

      distracted hamster

      Aug 11, 2013 at 8:32pm

      I"m a Canadian who has only just realized I've probably lost my passport....also in my apt.. Too many things to deal with at the time...upcoming surgery, moving to new place right before my surgery and trying to think if I had everything. I didn't apparently and now I have to renew my passport. I made the mistake of quickly changing purses one day in a hurry and neglected to include the passport because I don't like having it in my purse all the time but there are some places that require passport documentation. Have been trying to search in new place but some boxes I can't lift due to surgery and something tells me the purse with the passport did not make the move with me....really kicking myself on this one but at least I'm not travelling at this time.

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      Jamie

      Aug 3, 2015 at 11:01am

      My daughter is in this position right now. Our trip was booked to leave Saturday (2 days ago) and she realized Friday evening when she was packing that she can't find her passport. (She moved in June.) I came on ahead because the tickets and accommodation could not be rebooked. It's a long weekend so the passport office isn't open until tomorrow (Tuesday).
      How quickly is it possible to get a replacement? Does she have any hope of joining me within the next week? She is in Ottawa so she can actually go to the primary passport office in person.
      Can anyone give me an idea of how fast it can happen?
      A quick search shows US citizens can get a replacement in less than a day but I fear our vacation will be over before she gets it.

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