Published June 24, 1999

Passport Precautions

Your passport is one of the most valuable documents you can carry abroad. It confirms that you hold the citizenship of the country to which you belong, and is the only true form of identification that is accepted worldwide. Preserve it carefully. Never lend it to anyone or part with it unnecessarily.

In some countries, you may be asked to fill out a police card listing your name, passport number, destination, local address, and reason for traveling whenever you check into a hotel. You may be required to leave your passport at the hotel reception desk overnight so local police officials may check it. These are normal procedures specified by local law, so it is best to cooperate with the hotel staff. If your passport is not returned the following morning, immediately report its confiscation to local police authorities and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Passport loss is a costly problem. Law enforcement agencies have found that stolen or illegally obtained U.S. passports are often used to gain illegal entry into the U.S., or by criminals seeking to establish another identity abroad. If your passport is being used in conjunction with illegal activities, you could find yourself in an embarrassing situation. Overseas consular offices always take great caution when processing lost passport claims and issuing replacement documents; you may experience a delay in receiving your new passport.

Always carry your passport with you. You may need it to show identification, like when you need to cash travelers' checks. When carrying your passport, some basic precautions are in order. Be discreet in the way you carry your passport. Avoid leaving it in a handbag or an exposed pocket.

If you must leave your passport behind, be sure to leave it in the hotel safe, not in an empty hotel room or packed in your luggage.

Finally, always keep your passport in a plastic packet to avoid having it be invalidated by accidental spillage and leakage.