Your Passport is arguably the most valuable document you possess whilst living and working abroad and it should be carefully handled. This article offers some good, sensible advice regarding handling and using your passport.
As a general rule never send your passport through the post (unless you’re renewing it which you will do via courier anyway) and never leave it with anyone for any time. It’s your property so you keep hold of it.
Before you Leave
- Make sure your passport will not expire for at least 6 months and, if possible, make sure it is valid for the entire term of your teaching contract (renew it if not). Some countries will not allow visas to be issued if the passport is about to expire and some countries will not allow you to even enter if the passport is about to expire. Allow yourself at least 4 weeks to cover the time for renewal (and, if you are already abroad, allow a longer time as embassies are often slower at renewing passports).
- If you are applying for your first passport, allow for up to 6 weeks processing time.
- Make sure the details in your passport are correct and that you have filled out the emergency contact information in it.
- Make a couple of copies of your passport (the relevant pages only are necessary; that is pages with your photo and data). Keep these separately from your passport so that if your passport is stolen you will have immediate access to the number and details to pass on to the police. Some people take a photo of their passport and store it on their phone or in Dropbox.
- If a school or agency asks for your passport so they can arrange your visa or even to process your job application, NEVER send the original. You can send a copy; however, if you are concerned about safety and identity theft feel free to send a copy with important information (e.g. bar code, address) pixelated out.
- If your passport is stolen, report it immediately to the local police who will issue a theft report which you can then use at your nearest embassy or consulate to issue a temporary or replacement travel document. Note that some police authorities do not issue a theft report; regardless you should contact your local embassy or consulate who will explain the next steps in getting a replacement.
- It is often recommended that you carry some form of identification on you when abroad. Most countries have an ID card and foreigners should have something similar. However, your passport is often too valuable to carry in case it is lost or stolen. For this reason you should try to carry some other form of photo identification (such as a driver’s license) along with a copy of your passport. Your passport, meanwhile, is locked up somewhere safe at home!
Handling Your Passport
- You may need to hand over your passport to local authorities for visa work at some point. However, you should always take it back immediately and NEVER leave it with anyone if at all possible. Your passport is your property.
- Some schools illegally ask to keep your passport. This is common in Saudi Arabia, for example. However, despite what the schools might say this is not the law and you should not hand your passport over. If the school insists then contact your local embassy or consulate and ask for clarification. In some case the authorities will contact the school on your behalf to demand the return of your passport.