My son is trying to return from Canada to the U.S. He is a U.S. citizen. He lost his passport at the airport. He has scanned a copy of his birth certificate and passport on his laptop. They will not allow him to board a flight to the U.S. What can we do?

  • 87
    Go to a consulate and get a new one ?
    – Max
    Oct 24, 2018 at 11:06
  • 23
    Alternatively he can try and come by road. The border patrol will be able to verify his citizenship. Getting an emergency passport however is preferred. Oct 24, 2018 at 11:21
  • 11
    What airport is he flying from? At airports with pre-clearance he should be able to make his case directly to a CBP officer exactly as if he was arriving in the US. Unless he lost his passport somewhere between preclearance and boarding? In that case he doesn't need a passport, a drivers license should be enough.
    – jcaron
    Oct 24, 2018 at 12:02
  • 22
    Also, if he lost the passport at the airport, there's a good chance he forgot it at security, or at a check-in desk, so he should be able to find it. He should approach an airport information desk to ask for assistance, they probably have his passport set aside somewhere.
    – jcaron
    Oct 24, 2018 at 12:04
  • 4
    @jcaron Canada is requiring people to use original government-issued ID to board planes. When I was there a couple of months ago, I had to show my passport to board several domestic flights. They made a big show of announcing that we had to present the ID at the gate with our boarding passes. Perhaps I could have used my US driver's license; I didn't try. But there's no mention in the question of the son having a driver's license.
    – phoog
    Oct 24, 2018 at 13:05

3 Answers 3


Since this is a straightforward 'US passport lost abroad question', this is what you should do, the easiest method:

What should a U.S. citizen do if his/her passport is lost/stolen abroad?

You will have to replace the passport before returning to the United States. Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. Contact information for U.S. embassies and consulates is also available in our country information pages. Ask to speak to the Consular Section to report your passport lost or stolen. If you have been the victim of a serious crime, be sure to tell a consular officer about it as soon as possible so we can provide appropriate assistance. If you are scheduled to leave the foreign country shortly, please provide our consular staff with the details of your travel. We will make every effort to assist you quickly. You will also be directed to where you can obtain a photo for your replacement passport. In most cases, you will need to get a passport photo prior to your arrival at the consular section.

If you are notified by a relative or friend traveling abroad that his/her U.S. passport has been lost/stolen, you may wish to contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C, at 1-888-407-4747. That office will be able to help you put your friend or loved one in touch with the closest U.S. embassy or consulate. Your relative/friend must apply in person for a new passport at the U.S. embassy or consulate


The documentation requirements for US citizens to enter the US are mentioned on the CBP website.

  • If you're traveling by air you definitely need your passport. Or a NEXUS card if coming from Canada.
  • For land or sea travel you can use other alternates: if he is under 15 he can use his original birth/naturalization certificate.

EDIT: For your ease the Ottawa Embassy has the following contact details:

U.S. Embassy Ottawa

490 Sussex Drive Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 1G8 Canada

Telephone: +1 613 688 5335

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +1 613 238 5335

Fax: +1 613 688 3082

[email protected]

For other consulates go to this link

  • 17
    I would generally agree that this is the right way to go, but given that OP is in Canada simply going through the land border would be a lot easier and faster.
    – JonathanReez
    Oct 24, 2018 at 19:02
  • 1
    @JonathanReez I'm not from Canada or US so I don't know how it works over there, but can you cross the border without any ID? I know they can't possibly check everyone, but still, isn't it actually required?
    – ChatterOne
    Oct 25, 2018 at 9:05
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    @ChatterOne if you are a US citizen you can cross the border, but the delay (holding time by CBP) will be proportional to how much evidence you cannot present. If you have absolutely nothing then it would be a huge deal and they will need many hours or even days to verify you. If you have scanned/photo copies then it would easier for them.
    – Newton
    Oct 25, 2018 at 15:35
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    @ChatterOne They actually do check everyone, but given the story of having lost the passport, the evidence of the flight home that was abandoned, and whatever US ID the person might still have, it may well still be possible to cross. The officer merely needs to be satisfied the person has a right to enter (or if no right, that the person won't be a problem). Oct 25, 2018 at 22:38
  • 2
    @JimMacKenzie there's no way in the current climate that someone without a right of entry (that is, someone who is not a US citizen) is going to be let in without acceptable documents.
    – phoog
    Oct 26, 2018 at 4:08

There are two issues here:

  1. Will the Canadians let you board an international flight without a passport or NEXUS card. The answer here is pretty definitely no. The airline company could get fined severely for doing this, so a gate agent is not likely to let your son through -- unlike for domestic flights where they might take pity on a kid.

  2. Will USA immigration let you in without a passport or other government-issued documentation such as a REAL-ID driver's license or NEXUS card: Usually, but expect a thorough and perhaps delayed vetting process. They are required to let American citizens in, but they are allowed to hold you in a holding cell (for hours or even days) until they're satisfied that you are a USA citizen or refuse you if they are not satisfied. Anyone can photoshop an image of a passport or birth certificate on their laptop and verification can take longer than you might expect if the DHS and State computer systems are feeling ungracious towards each other, which can happen.

Given the latter situation, your son's best bet if he can't get an emergency replacement passport at the American consulate in Canada, is to go to a land crossing and try to cross the border to the USA there. Tell him to bring as much documentation as he can. Tell him to expect a very long delay so he should eat a hearty meal and go to the bathroom before presenting himself (and carry snacks, water, and a physical book to read). Sometimes they'll let people through in 15 minutes, but these days it might take much longer.

  • 1
    A GlobalEntry card might suffice since it's essentially half of a NEXUS card. Oct 25, 2018 at 22:39
  • @JimMacKenzie - I don't think so, not for boarding on a Canadian flight. The NEXUS card is the result of a bilateral treaty between Canada and the USA that gives reciprocity -- that is also has global entry features is something the USA does on its own, and Global Entry as a whole is an American program that has no bilaterality with Canada -- something I raised in another question (why Canadians can't get GE): travel.stackexchange.com/questions/118084/…
    – RoboKaren
    Oct 25, 2018 at 22:42
  • Canadians can't get it but Americans who have it will be able to clear US Customs and Immigration with it. NEXUS essentially is GE when traveling from .ca to .us. Can't say I've tried it, mind. You'd certainly need NEXUS to do the reverse. Bear in mind GE and NEXUS cards look identical except for saying "GLOBAL ENTRY" instead of "NEXUS". Oct 25, 2018 at 22:44
  • You’re only addressing point #2 which isn’t under dispute. The Americans will eventually let you in. However the Canadians won’t let you board without a passport or nexus card, which is point #1 and the critical one in this situation. They are under no obligation to respect the GE card. An gate agent might take pity on a kid but they also risk huge fines if they are caught boarding him.
    – RoboKaren
    Oct 25, 2018 at 22:50
  • 1
    Air Canada, WestJet and United all seem to agree with you (not that I doubted you), which is puzzling because for CA-to-US travel, GE and NEXUS are equal. My guess is that they word things as such because GE is not valid for US-to-CA travel. Best to play it safe though. Oct 25, 2018 at 22:55

As a US citizen you cannot be denied entry to the United States. Therefore the fastest way of getting back home is to simply present yourself at a land crossing, where CBP officials will be forced to accommodate your request to enter the country, regardless of whether or not you have your passport. Having a scanned copy of your birth certificate and passport should be sufficient, but bring in any additional documentation you might have to prove your identity, such as your drivers license or another form of State ID.

The only tricky question is how to actually reach the US border. If you have a car available you can simply drive yourself to the border. Second best option would be to ask someone for a favour and have them drop you off. Finally, you can use public transport to reach the US - Travel.SE provides a fantastic guide listing all the options for doing so.

Once you've crossed the border and reached the US you would potentially have an issue with getting on a plane back home, as the TSA usually requires you to have government-issued ID to get on a domestic flight. But there are likewise workarounds for people who have lost their ID, so it can be taken care of as well.

  • 4
    Just to add, hitch-hiking in Canada is a fairly safe way to reach the border. Oct 24, 2018 at 21:19
  • 14
    They can’t deny a USA citizen entry but they can hold people who they suspect don’t have American citizenship for an indefinite amount of time. Without authenticated ID papers, your as good as stateless until the ICO is satisfied.
    – RoboKaren
    Oct 25, 2018 at 1:02
  • 5
    @Rg7xgW6acQ3g there's a password to re-enter a country now???
    – Criggie
    Oct 25, 2018 at 11:44
  • 5
    @Criggie You can't lose the password if you become the password. This is what Rg7x did!
    – Agent_L
    Oct 25, 2018 at 14:35
  • 3
    Being dropped off at the US border might work in some areas, but not others. If you were in Regina, Saskatchewan with this problem, and I dropped you off at the port of Raymond, Montana, unless you get lucky and hitch a ride, you have about a hundred miles or more to go somewhere that has bus service, and more like 250 to somewhere with an airport with commercial flights. Oct 25, 2018 at 22:40

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