by Essie Bester
Your trip overseas is a dream come true. Then the time comes to return home to your country and your family and you discover that your passport has disappeared into nowhere. It might have been stolen, or perhaps you lost it on the beach. What to do? Does this mean that you are left stranded in a foreign country? Just the mere thought is enough to fill you with fear. But don’t panic. This step-by-step guide will enable you to handle the situation calmly.
Report it immediately at the nearest police station. Then you have to take a copy of the police report to the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate General, where you can use the copy to apply for an emergency travel document – since 1 September 2014 our Department of Home Affairs no longer issues temporary passports.
The emergency travel document is valid for a maximum period of nine months, but only for a single trip. This is for people who have to travel urgently when the time to process a passport application is insufficient, which could take longer than one week. If you cannot have or don’t want this emergency certificate, you have to apply for a new passport. This could take some time as passport applications are sent to the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa for the processing and issuing of new passports. During this waiting period you will have to remain overseas.
To apply for a new passport or an emergency travel document, you have to:
- Complete an application form (DHA-73) – here copies of your original documents come in handy. The application form for an emergency travel document will be similar to those for the renewal of your passport. A declaration (DHA-335) regarding the loss of your passport or travel document must also be completed.
- Have your fingerprints taken.
- Submit written proof of your South African citizenship (e.g. a birth certificate, identity document, or certified copy of your passport, if possible).
- Submit a copy of the police report – the translation should be in English.
- Provide two new passport photos (size 35 x 45mm). The embassy will be able to refer you to a place where the photos can be taken.
- Pay the required fee – this is a fee which many travel insurance companies will reimburse you to a certain limit, provided you have a receipt.
- Be prepared to wait five days for processing (in the case of an application for an emergency travel document).
Take preventative measures against losing documentation by:
Making copies (3) of the following (it is wise to have copies of important documents such as your passport and visa certified):
- Passport (the identification page).
- Travel insurance.
- Driver’s license.
- Health information.
- Credit cards.
- Travellers’ cheques, although very few people still use them nowadays.
- Aeroplane tickets.
- Confirmation of hotel or other accommodation.
- Confirmation of your reservation of a taxi.
- Inoculation certificates (Some countries need an inoculation certificate for specific infectious diseases, e.g. travellers from Venezuela who wish to enter certain countries must show a current yellow fever inoculation certificate).
- Any other prepaid confirmations.
Put away one printed copy at home and give one copy to a friend or family member who can be contacted should you need it. The copy at home is for your next of kin. If the unthinkable should happen on this trip and you pass away, you would after all want them to be able to claim on your travel insurance policy’s pay-out. They will need the details to enable them to do so. You can carry the third copy on your person during your travels for when for some or other reason you don’t have access to the copies that you saved electronically.
Save your documents electronically
Nowadays not much happens on actual paper and you can even apply for a loan with an electronic signature – the idea of travelling with printed copies of your documents is therefore somewhat old-fashioned.
The newest way of obtaining a copy of your required documents is to scan and save them electronically.
- Send them to your own email account and perhaps also to that of a friend.
- Save them on a memory stick and take it overseas with you.
- Save them on an online cloud of your choice.
- Save them on your portable equipment or laptop.
With electronic copies of your travel documents at hand, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort. However, remember that these are critical documents and that identity thieves can cause you immense harm should the documents fall into their hands. So keep them safe and secure. Protect your online documents and even those you send to your friend, with a password. Make sure your portable equipment and laptops are also secured with a password.
To travel can be a wonderful adventure or it can become a nightmare. It depends greatly on you, as responsible planning in this regard can do a lot to ensure you have a great and meaningful experience.