Warning for Business Travelers – What You Really Need Before You Leave the Country

TAB TUESDAY

Remember the old commercials for American Express Travelers Checks with Karl Malden, who coined the phrase, “American Express Travelers Checks don’t leave home without them?” The commercial was created to raise awareness about how important it is to protect ourselves against lost or stolen documents and money when traveling.

This commercial quickly came to mind when I discovered, in a recent trip to Australia, that my passport had been stolen. What was a planned short week’s stay soon became a logistical nightmare resulting in an unplanned extension of another 9 days!

As a Canadian business traveler that frequently travels abroad, I have made it a best practice to always keep a copy of my passport on my mobile phone for backup, just in case the worst happens and my passport is stolen.

Although this backup passport was a good idea and could cut off a couple of days in waiting time, it was not enough to save me. According to the Canadian government, I needed to have not one, but THREE pieces of ID in order for them to issue me a temporary passport that I could use to fly back home.

When I met with the Canadian Consulate in Australia, they specifically told me in order to get home I needed a temporary passport, but a temporary passport can only be issued if you submit a complete application for a new passport and this required:

  1. A photocopy of my passport
  2. Proof of Canadian citizenship (birth certificate or other)
  3. Proof of residence (drivers license, etc.)

Having my proof of residence and a passport copy was certainly helpful, in moving the process along, but like most of us, I do not carry my birth certificate with me when I travel and so I needed to get access to my birth certificate. Luckily I could ask my wife back in Canada to fax me a copy of my birth certificate – but what if she was not at home or we were traveling together? I would have been stuck in Australia (not that there is anything wrong with Australia of course).

Once I had all of the documents, I then had to arrange to have Canadian-approved passport pictures taken, which is not as straightforward as it might seem. Thereafter I had to submit my application for a new passport to the Canadian Consulate along with a request for a temporary passport for approval.

The entire ordeal meant I needed to prolong my stay in Australia by more than a week, as it takes 5 to 7 business days to issue a temporary passport. As a result, I had to make arrangements for a new flight ($1100) and book extra hotel nights ($600), as well as reschedule all of my meetings planned for the week (priceless)!

As difficult as the incident was for me in Australia, I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to try to accomplish all of this if I had been traveling in a country where the language was unfamiliar.

I share this story with all Canadian travelers, as this experience although harrowing, was a wake-up call for me. The experience was a warning to make sure you always have these 3 pieces of ID with you when traveling.

Were you aware that you needed these 3 pieces of ID to get a temporary passport? Have you ever been in a similar situation? What did you learn from it? I look forward to hearing your stories.

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