Legal requirement to report lost/stolen
The Australian Passports Act 2005, Section 41, provides penalties where a person fails to report the loss or theft of their travel document as soon as practicable and Section 22 provides for the cancellation of a travel document when the document has been lost or stolen.
Lost or stolen travel documents are attractive to people other than the rightful holder as it may give them an opportunity to travel illegally, assume another identity or carry out criminal activity in another name.
A key policy objective is to encourage the reporting and return of lost or stolen travel documents and to cancel them physically and electronically as soon as possible. The Australian Government has a Memorandum of Understanding with some countries and Interpol which allows the sharing of information on lost and stolen travel documents. Australian travel documents that have been reported as lost or stolen are regularly reported to Interpol and appropriate border control authorities.
How a client reports a lost/stolen
A person can report the loss or theft by:
- The passport website www.passports.gov.au This includes a facility for the applicant to find out how many travel documents they reported lost or stolen, and when they did so, during the previous 5 years;
- Completing a PC1, PC4, PC5 or PC8 application form including section 10 if replacing the travel document;
- Completing a PC2 form (available from Passport Offices in Australia or overseas or online) if not replacing the travel document;
- An e-mail to a Passport Office or an overseas post;
- Telephone to the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) or an Australian diplomatic or consular mission;
- Letter or facsimile to a Passport Office or an overseas post;
- The Consular Emergency Centre (CEC); or
- Secure Sentinel Service (if a member).
Responding to a reported lost/stolen
When first notified of the loss/theft of a travel document, Passport Offices/overseas missions must immediately verify the holder’s identity (see below) and record the travel document as lost or stolen in the Passport Issuing and Control System and before processing an application to replace the lost/stolen travel document.
Advice that must be given to the client: lost/stolen
If identity is confirmed the applicant should be asked to provide their current residential address and whether this is the usual mail address for future correspondence.
Note: See ‘Letter to client confirming cancellation: lost/stolen’ (below). It is important to obtain a current address as Letter 1 must be sent out to the client once cancellation of the travel document has occurred.
The person reporting the lost/stolen travel document must be advised that:
- The travel document will be cancelled immediately and will not be valid for further travel;
- Should the person attempt to travel on the document reported as lost/stolen they would be in breach of the Australian Passports Act 2005 for which penalties apply under Section 32 and their travel document would be confiscated by border control authorities and a new travel document would need to be obtained;
- Passports that have been reported as lost or stolen cannot be reverted to Normal (N) status regardless of whether the document is located after it has been reported as lost or stolen.
Penalties apply under the Australian Passports Act 2005 and the Criminal Code for making a false statement or report about a lost or stolen travel document.
Letter to client confirming cancellation: lost/stolen
Once a passport has been cancelled, Letter 1 must be completed and sent out to the client to confirm cancellation, provide details on how they can re-apply for a new passport and to contact the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS), the Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) or the nearest Australian diplomatic or consular mission overseas if the passport is subsequently found.
Other forms as required (e.g. application form) should accompany Letter 1.
Police reports required: lost/stolen
A person who has reported their travel document lost or stolen will need to obtain a police report if they wish to claim a refund of the additional lost/stolen fee to demonstrate that the circumstances of the loss or theft fall within the refund policy guidelines. See ‘ Lost/stolen fee refund ’.
Passport held by a person or company not entitled to the passport
Responsibility of rightful passport holder: passport held by improper party
A person who reports their current passport or travel document as being in the hands of a spouse, or other person who has no right to hold or replace it, is to be advised to take all steps to recover the document including:
- Direct written or verbal contact with the person holding the document; and/or
- Obtain private legal assistance.
Note: The rightful holder should document all attempts to retrieve the document.
If the rightful holder claims to have done all they can to recover the travel document without success, they must be directed to their nearest Australian Passport Office or overseas diplomatic or consular mission to provide a full statement (B11) of the circumstances (including efforts to recover the document and contact details for the alleged holder).
In most cases a parent has the right to hold the passport or travel document of a child only if that parent has parental responsibility for the child. A dispute concerning who holds a child’s passport or travel document, between persons with parental responsibility for the child, must be settled privately through legal channels.
Responsibility of Passport Office: passport held by improper party
Upon receipt of the statement of circumstances the interviewing officer must refer the statement to the appropriate Authorised Officer where the statement will be assessed and an appropriate course of action determined.
Travel document held by overseas law enforcement authority or court
When a travel document is held by an overseas law enforcement authority or court the circumstances must be reported to the Competent Authority and Approved Senior Officer Unit (CAU) of the Passport Policy and Operations Section (POS). The CAU will determine the appropriate measures to mitigate the risk of a valid Australian travel document being misused or replaced.
Known lost/stolen not reported
Under the Australian Passports Act 2005, Section 22, when the Passport Office/overseas post becomes aware that an Australian travel document holder has not reported the loss/theft (for whatever reason), the travel document will be immediately recorded as lost/stolen and cancelled.
A letter must be sent to the travel document holder (to their last known/recorded address) advising them that their travel document has been cancelled and is no longer valid for travel purposes.
Travel document temporarily unavailable
Note: This policy does not apply to unavailable documents as a result of an overseas crisis or a declared natural disaster in Australia. There are separate arrangements in place for these events.
Where a client applies for a travel document to replace one that is temporarily unavailable (the document is not lost or stolen), and travel is urgently required, provided the interviewing officer is satisfied as to the genuineness of the circumstances, a replacement travel document (ordinary, LVP or emergency) may be issued.
The unavailable travel document is to be voided upon issue of the replacement passport unless special approval is give by the delegate for the applicant to be issued a concurrent passport, see ‘ Concurrent Passports ’.
Subsequent use of a passport reported lost/stolen
The Australian Passports Act 2005, Section 32, states that a person commits an offence if the person uses an Australian travel document in connection with travel or identification and the document has been cancelled. All travel documents reported as lost or stolen are immediately cancelled under the Australian Passports Act, Section 22. If a reported lost/stolen travel document is used by the holder to enter or depart Australia, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) are empowered under the Australian Passports Act 2005, Section 24, to demand the surrender and impound the travel document. The document is to be returned to the nearest Passport Office for cancellation. If DIAC reports the case to the Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) (or Passport Office) without impounding the document, a letter demanding return of the passport is to be sent to the holder by the Australian Passport Office (APO). When the document is returned by DIAC or the holder, it is to be cancelled.
If a passport that has been reported as lost is used overseas, foreign border control authorities may confiscate the document and/or detain the document holder. Where a document is confiscated by foreign border officials the post must request the return of the document for cancellation or return to Canberra.
Offices receiving requests for the reinstatement of a cancelled/voided passport must advise the client that this is not possible under any circumstances.