Passport pitfalls and scares

Posted Date: 20 April 2015
Passport pitfalls

A passport isn’t just that sentimental booklet of stamps you’ve collected over the years, or your digital hot ticket through the airport queues and customs lines. It’s one of the most valuable items that you own and the most important in terms of international travel.

Your New Zealand passport is a desirable target for thieves, but it’s not just unscrupulous strangers that you need to watch out for, we also see a lot of claims where travellers lose or damage their passport. If that does happen to you, we are here to help – which is why we have pulled together this guide on essential passport checks and what to do if you lose or damage your passport overseas.

No matter how much travelling you’ve done, little things can still catch you out. Forward planning can ensure little things don’t turn into big problems. Here are some of our top tips to keep you on schedule for a great holiday.

Pre-holiday passport checklist:

  1. Check your passports are valid and have at least six months from the date you want to enter the country you’re travelling to. Check with the embassy or diplomatic office of the countries you are visiting to make sure you meet all of their entry requirements and if you need visas for entering.
  2. Check you have enough empty visa pages. Everyone loves collecting entry stamps and if you’re a frequent flyer your pages might be full. If your passport doesn’t have at least one empty visa page or enough room for customs or border protection stamps, you may be refused entry.
  3. Check your passport is not damaged. If your passport looks like it’s been tampered with because of water damage or ripped corners and edges, you may be refused entry. If your photo or the security chip is affected in any way or your passport is in bad condition you could be refused entry. 
  4. Check your passport is politically correct. Make sure any previous entry stamps won’t cause you a problem. Some entry stamps may be politically flagged in the country you are visiting.
  5. Make sure you don’t have any unpaid fines. Your passport is checked as you leave the country and your name will be checked against information held by our government. These days, your passport is like your electronic fingerprint so if there’s anything outstanding that would be flagged, you could be prevented from leaving the country. 
  1. Am I covered for this?
    Our travel insurance is designed to cover the unexpected – it’s just one of the ways we keep our prices low. We don’t cover the circumstances above because they are avoidable and not unexpected. However, we do cover lost or stolen travel documents up to $1,000, and related setbacks, such as cancelled flights - so you can travel with the confidence that we can help if things don’t go to plan.

All done? Then it’s a good idea to follow these best practice tips to  prevent you from losing your passport in the first place.

Store some of your details in the Cloud

There are plenty of reasons why carrying copies of your passport details can be useful when you travel, but unlike the traditional method of photocopying, use technology to your advantage.

For security purposes, we don’t suggest storing all of your information in one place, so a great alternative is to simply store your passport number, unmarked in an encrypted service and your other details in a separate cloud service such as McAfee Personal Locker – which requires a six-digit pin, security questions as well as facial and voice recognition.

By splitting your information across multiple platforms you’ll greatly reduce any cyber vulnerability while ensuring that you can easily review your passport details if you need to. This may be the best option for travellers who do not wish to take their passport with them sightseeing each day or to particular events.

Keeping your passport safe on holiday

Regardless of what kind of traveller you are or what you will be doing day-to-day, there will be times you will need your passport during your holiday. Aside from border control, activities such as checking into hotels, renting a car, and even purchasing duty free goods may require you to carry your passport.

Be aware of your surroundings when travelling and transiting. You will want your passport to be easily accessible but make sure you don’t leave it lying around or visible in an open bag. Invest in a good travel wallet that closes properly and can carry all travel documents. Consider purchasing a money belt if you are travelling through areas known for pickpockets.

Depending on your activities for the day, you should decide if it is necessary to take your passport with you, for instance if you plan to go skydiving, laze by the beach or hike up a mountain, it’s unlikely you’ll need to carry  your passport.

If you don’t need to take it with you – ensure there is a safe, secure place that you can leave it. If you are staying in shared accommodation such as dorms while backpacking, don’t leave your passport or valuables behind while you are out. Hire a locker or check whether there are safes available for guests to use/rent, as you will want to make sure that your luggage is secure from  roommates and anyone else who could potentially have access to the room. Likewise, if you’re staying in a reputable hotel in a large city, you may wish to leave your passport in the hotel safe.

Follow these simple and practical safe steps and you’ll hopefully minimise the risk of having your passport stolen, lost or damaged – but, as we know, sometimes the unexpected can happen…

What to do when you lose your passport overseas

So what happens when the unimaginable occurs – when you lose your proof of identity or when it’s stolen or damaged?

First things first, stay calm. Although extremely inconvenient, a lost passport can normally be replaced through fairly standard procedures. Whilst it may cost you extra fees that you hadn’t necessarily budgeted for, staying level headed and pragmatic will aid you in resolving your situation faster. And remember if you have a TravelCare policy from Southern Cross Travel Insurance it will provide up to $1,000 cover for your lost travel documents.   

1.  Call the police!

If you have lost your passport due to theft or robbery, you should immediately notify the police, security, or appropriate authorities within 24 hours of the discovery of the loss or theft. Make sure you are given a police reference number so you can follow up on progress. Note that these can be called different things in different countries, e.g. Police Report Event Numbers, Crime Reference Numbers, etc.

Most importantly, you should keep the written police report to support your new passport application, and your insurance claim.

2. Report your missing passport to NZ authorities and replace it

The next thing you need to do is get in contact with the New Zealand authorities and advise them that your passport is missing, and they will cancel it. Once it’s cancelled it cannot be used for travel, so even if you find it again you will need to organise a replacement. Locate the nearest NZ Passport Office, NZ Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.

To replace a New Zealand passport you will need to:

  • Complete an overseas application form
  • Provide details of the lost or stolen passport (use your police report as support)
  • Attend an interview
  • Pay an application fee for the new passport
  • Pay a lost/stolen passport fee.

Click here to visit the Department of Internal Affairs – Information for lost or stolen NZ passports

3. Request an Emergency Travel Document (if necessary)

If a New Zealand citizen is required to travel under emergency circumstances within the standard 10-day turnaround time, an emergency travel document may be issued.

Applicants must:

  • Give reason why travel is urgent
  • Provide details of a referee who holds a valid New Zealand passport.
  • Pay a processing fee in the currency of the country that you are in when filing for an emergency travel document.
  • Include a copy of the police report.
  • Persons under 16 must sign a declaration.

Department of Internal Affairs - Emergency Travel Document Form

Note: If you're in Australia or the United Kingdom, and you need to travel urgently, you should just apply for a passport. Standard passports are issued within 10 working days, urgent passports within three working days, and within 24 hours for emergencies, provided the application is approved.

Department of Internal Affairs – Urgent travel from Australia

Department of Internal Affairs – Urgent travel from the UK

4. Contact SCTI

We’re here to support you when the unexpected happens. Our Emergency Assistance team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on +64 9 359 1600. You might like to store this number in your cloud service too!

5. Make a claim

Once you return to New Zealand, you can claim for the costs you may have incurred to organise a replacement passport or emergency travel document, as well as any additional travel costs.

Click here to make your claim online, make sure you have your policy number and a NZ bank account number to get started.

…And what shouldn’t you do?

  • Continue your travels – Do not leave the location that you lost your passport without first obtaining a police report.
  • Fail to follow up upon return – Once you have returned home, make sure that you register for a proper passport replacement.
  • Complicate the process – Understand that passport processes can be extremely rigid. There is no need to over complicate things or aggravate your situation.
  • Expect that your holiday will continue immediately as normal – If applicable, take reasonable action to rearrange your immediate travel plans as in many cases your holiday won’t continue normally until you receive your new passport.

A lost passport due to an unexpected event like theft or an unpredictable natural disaster can have drastic implications on the rest of your holiday. Setbacks such as cancelled flights, transport delays could all be covered under the TravelCare policy. Don’t take the risk of being stranded on the other side of the world without a passport or any support!

For more information on passports and visas visit the official website

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