Passport to hassle

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 07:43 12/03/2014

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More than 10,000 New Zealand passports went missing or were stolen last year, the Department of Internal Affairs said after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on Saturday.

Worldwide security fears have been raised because two passengers on the flight were travelling with stolen Italian and Austrian passports.

Passengers were able to board planes more than a billion times last year without having their passports screened against Interpol's database of 40 million entries of lost or stolen passports.

In 2013, 8100 New Zealand passports were reported lost and 2100 reported stolen, but this was only a fraction of the 600,000 passports issued in 2013, the department said.

Although most of the misplaced or stolen passports went missing in New Zealand, many others disappeared in key tourist destinations such as Paris, Madrid, Rome, London, Los Angeles and Bangkok.

There have been reports of bar girls in Thailand stealing passports from customers for a commission and instances of backpackers selling their passports to get extra cash.

Lost or stolen New Zealand passports are cancelled immediately.

But what should you do if your passport is lost or stolen when you are travelling abroad, particularly if you are visiting countries without a New Zealand passport office (Australia and the UK) or even a New Zealand embassy (think Laos, Peru and Greece).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said it cannot help pay to replace stolen or lost passports, even if you are temporarily stuck in a foreign country, so full and comprehensive travel insurance is recommended.

Getting a police report was crucial, then you needed to decide whether to apply for a replacement passport or an Emergency Travel Document, which was essentially a piece of paper certifying who you are, MFAT said.

New Zealand passports were produced only in Wellington, Sydney and London but urgent ones could be made in three days and cost $287.

However, the delivery period could add to the waiting time if travellers were far from Wellington, Sydney or London, in which case tourists should call the closest New Zealand embassy.

The embassy would provide an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) for urgent travel. This would likely reach you faster than a replacement passport.

You can't apply online, instead contact the closest New Zealand embassy and then pay $350 by credit card over the phone to the passport office in Wellington.

The ETD is accepted by foreign customs and immigration officials, but MFAT said returning home first, rather than continuing your travels, was the best course of action, particularly if you were to cross multiple borders.

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The $350 would cover the cost of a replacement passport, if you applied within 30 days.

MFAT said there might be some delay while travel documents were delivered, but tourists would never be left without travel documentation.

New Zealand's passport checks 

Booking a ticket

No passport details required when buying a ticket for an international flight. Customers can add passport details later.

At the airport

The first passport inspection is at the check-in counter. Staff visually check the photo on the passport against the face of the person checking in, and ensure the name on the passport matches the name on the ticket.

Customs

A customs officer makes another visual check of the passenger against their passport photo. All passports are scanned. This should trigger any local police alerts and catch any stolen passports listed on Interpol's international database. Smartgate customs procedures, for trans-Tasman travel involve biometric technology, which removes the risk of human error in facial recognition.

Boarding gates

All flights to the US and some airlines require another passport or photo-ID check, to ensure it corresponds to the name on the boarding pass.

Domestic flights

The only screen of passengers is at check-in: a photo ID, not necessarily a passport, is checked against the person at the counter and the name on the air ticket. This check is altogether removed with the increased use of online and kiosk check-ins. There is no photo ID check at the boarding gates.

- Stuff

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