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travel insurance and lost, stolen or damaged passports

20 January, 2020 By Natali Mansberg

Does travel insurance cover passports?

It’s often the last item we think about when headed overseas, but your passport is a top-priority document when travelling abroad. It’s only pocket-sized but a case of theft, loss or damage to your passport can have grave ramifications for you and your fellow holidaymakers.

Recently, more and more stories have been hitting the headlines regarding Australians denied travel due to torn, water-stained or somehow compromised passports. Both immigrations and airlines have been cracking down on the issue leaving travellers vulnerable to huge holiday hiccups. So, does travel insurance cover lost, stolen or damaged passports? We break it down for you below.

Passport theft and loss

Travel insurance may cover the cost to replace your lost or stolen passport, in addition to any related out of pocket expenses. Most insurers will require you to produce a written police report in the event of theft. You will also need to let your insurer know as soon as possible of the theft or loss of your passport.

Generally speaking you would be covered for:

  • The cost to replace your lost or stolen passport
  • The relevant passport application fees and associated costs
  • Reasonable additional expenses you have incurred if your trip is disrupted due to the loss of your passport

What should I do if my passport is lost or stolen?

The Australian government can assist those whose passports are lost or stolen while overseas. Travellers are advised to contact their nearest Australian embassy or consulate, or phone the 24- the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305. Travellers should also contact their travel insurer and obtain a police report in the event of theft.

Passport damages

While travel insurance policies may vary, damaged passports may not be covered by travel insurance. A common clause within most travel insurance policies excludes cover for ‘errors, omissions or failure to obtain the relevant visa, passport or travel document.’  
While that may sound wordy, it basically means that is your responsibility to care for and ensure that your passport is in order. Most policies will only cover passports that are damaged under certain circumstances, for instance, in a fire or flood at your accommodation. Otherwise, you are obliged to take reasonable care of your belongings and travel documents.  Passport tears, marks or water stains would not usually be covered under your policy.

How are passport damages defined?

Passport damage can refer to any flaw which renders it invalid, affecting your ability to travel. According to the Australian Passport Office (APO), this can include.

  • Tears or cuts in the pages, especially the photo page.
  • Water damages or marks, particularly on your photo or the Machine-Readable Zone (MRZ) on the photo page
  • Missing pages
  • Any alteration or tampering to your passport

What should I do if my passport is damaged?

If you are due to travel overseas and have spotted damage to your passport, contact the Australian Passport Office on 131 232.

Depending on the date of your travels, you may have time to be reissued with a new passport (urgent applications can be processed within two business days for an additional fee).
If you are already overseas and suspect your passport is damaged, you may be required to get an emergency passport. Without valid travel documents you may be denied exit or entry by border authorities and even face arrest or jail.

Travellers with damaged passports are advised to contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate, or phone the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305.

Note that not all countries accept emergency passports and you may need an additional visa to cross certain borders.

What You Won’t Be Covered For

As a rule, travel insurance does not typically cover the following scenarios:
-Failure to carry your passport with you (unless locked in a safety deposit box)
-Passports stored in the hold when flying or travelling with any public transport provider
-Expired or invalid passports (i.e. with less than six months’ validity to enter the country)
-Failure to renew or obtain a new passport in the required timeframe

Passport care tips

While a small amount of ‘wear and tear’ may be acceptable, it’s expected that you should do your best to look after and prevent any major damages to your passport. The following tips may help prevent any passport mishaps:

  • Always ensure your passport is kept in a safe, clean location, away from any liquid containers. When travelling, secure your passport in a moneybelt or a locked compartment.
  • Check your pockets and travel bags before washing- too often passports are mistakenly thrown in the wash.
  • Avoid placing any sticky tape or labels on your passport pages
  • Ensure your passport is not within access to animals or small children
  • Before travelling, make copies or scan the bio page of your passport. This will ease the process of replacing your passport if necessary.

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Contributor Natali Mansberg

Natali Mansberg

Natali is a former kids magazine writer whose credits include working for the mouse (Mickey that is). An avid traveller, Natali spent part of her childhood in Israel and enjoyed several stints across the globe. Having worked in travel insurance for three years, Natali likes to simplify the fine-print and help Aussies make sense of their insurance policies. She currently lives in Sydney with her husband and one-year old son.

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