- My passport was stolen during my recent trip to London.
- I had to catch a flight a few days later and thought I’d still be stuck.
- But I got an emergency appointment the next day and got a new passport in less than 24 hours.
During my recent trip to London, I experienced every traveler’s ultimate nightmare when my bag was stolen.
I was sitting on my friend’s bed, scared of my lost laptop. Then I remembered what I had left inside the front pocket – something much more important.
My US passport is gone.
It was just after midnight on Thursday. My friend’s wedding was in a small English country town – an hour and a half from London – the next day, and my flight to Spain was two days later. Frantic thoughts started rushing through my head. I was sure I would miss my trip or the wedding or both.
Somehow, though, it all worked out. Here’s how I got an emergency passport as quickly as possible.
My first step was to contact the US Embassy in London
It sounds obvious, but this step was actually quite frustrating, especially when you’re feeling stressed and panicked.
You can’t rush straight to the US Embassy and get an emergency passport, which I was hoping to do the day before my friend’s wedding. First, you have to get an appointment.
According to the US Embassy website, you can request an emergency passport only if it is at least five business days before the “urgent travel abroad date.” Since it was Thursday and my flight was on Sunday, I knew I qualified.
Then I had to fill out an online application, which asked for my basic information as well as the date, time, destination and flight number for my trip to Spain.
I sent my order by 10am that Thursday, but the site wasn’t exactly encouraging.
“Once we receive this information, we will then provide further advice, but please be aware that this may take several days as we are reviewing other US citizens with equally urgent travel requests,” the statement read.
I frantically called the number listed for the embassy, but everyone I spoke to said I was unlikely to get an appointment before the weekend. One woman told me that “very few Americans” had lost their passports the night before.
With the US Embassy in London closed on Saturday and Sunday, my trip to Spain seemed more and more unlikely. So I hopped on a train to the Cotswolds, where my friend’s wedding was, and tried to forget about it. I got out of my hand until I got a date.
But four hours after I submitted my application, I received a new email from the US Embassy: I had an appointment the next day at 9 am
I have prepared as much as I can to speed up my emergency appointment on my passport
I needed to catch a 6am train to London for my embassy appointment, then had to catch a 12:50pm train to the Cotswolds in order to make my friend’s wedding at 3pm – a daunting task.
I had no idea how long it usually takes to get a new passport, but I knew I had no time to waste. So I printed and filled out the required documents listed on the US Embassy website, which included:
- US Department of State application for a US passport
- A statement permanently stating that my passport has been lost or stolen
I also needed a passport photo. While there is a photo booth at the US Embassy in London, the site states “we cannot guarantee these will be operational,” which doesn’t look promising. But I was able to print my forms and have my picture taken thanks to the very kind people at the Cotswold Pharmacy in Northwich.
I also printed copies of my birth certificate and stolen passport, and brought a copy of my police report regarding my stolen bag.
The appointment of the US Embassy was long but rather smooth
After getting on the train, changing the tube twice, and a short walk, I finally made it to the US Embassy in London. The modern design of the building reminded me of undulating waves, or those little cups that bartenders use to measure shots of cocktails.
I arrived 20 minutes early for a 9am appointment and was immediately allowed in. Then I checked in at the front desk and was assigned a number – my ID for the rest of the day.
I took an elevator to the upper floor, which is reserved specifically for US citizens, and found a seat. The space was large, clean and bright, with a small cafe next to the lift selling coffee, tea, chips and pastries. The floor was still fairly empty when I arrived, and it was easy to hear snippets of people sharing their own stories of lost and stolen passports. Others were frantically trying to rebook flights they could no longer board. As the day passed, the room became so cramped that there were only a few chairs left to sit on.
About 40 minutes after checking in, my number was called to the window. I handed my documents and then I was asked to show my US driver’s license. Since my license was still on hand, the woman said I don’t need to show my birth certificate (this is still listed as a requirement for a US passport application, so I’ll bring it in just in case).
Then I was told my number would be called to pay the $135 application fee. I was impressed! This was going so fast, how long could it really take to pay for something? Well, definitely longer than I expected.
About 40 minutes later, I heard my phone number and ran to give the employee my credit card. My eyes were on the clock – this was going to be soon.
My number was called again 20 minutes after paying, this time I was called to a room instead of the window. A woman with an American accent asked me to take an oath, and I swore I was honest in my request. Then she stamped some things and said my passport was in print.
“Do you know how long it will take?” I asked.
“Everyone always asks me that, and I always tell them the same,” she replied. “I have no idea.”
Forty minutes later, I finally got my new emergency passport. I was told it would be valid for the next year and was given forms showing how to renew it again in the US. It was just after 12:10 PM. The whole process, excluding travel time, took approximately three and a half hours.
After a crazy rush through multiple subway stations, I arrived just in time for my 12:50 PM train and saw my sweet friend Sophie tied the knot. Two days later, I was on my trip to Spain with no problems.
In general, I was really surprised at how efficient the embassy was – I was shocked that you could get an emergency appointment and a new passport within 24 hours. I also learned that I was so lucky – lucky as you can be in a situation like this – to lose my passport in a major European city with a US embassy nearby, and the means to pay for a new one at once.
It has been crazy summer to travel For everyone. If you’re stuck in a terrible situation and need some advice, or a little calm, I hope this helps – if only a little.