Emergency replacement of US passport in Kiev
Hi everyone - wanted to share my experience with other US expatriates in case they end up in an emergency situation like mine.
Background: While going from the city center of Lviv to the train station to buy a ticket to Kyiv, I was pickpocketed. In the theft, I lost almost all my available cash, and all identification documentation, resulting in a rather desperate situation. After 24 hours of desperate efforts, I managed to get to a point where I can share with others what appears to me the best steps to take if you should find yourself in the same situation.
Bear in mind, I carried out all the precautions I thought were enough to prevent this from happening - including placing my passport wallet inside the front inside pocket of my coat. It apparently wasn't enough, and yes, this could happen to anyone, even a reasonably experienced visitor passing through a pleasant city like Lviv.
Step 1: Don't panic. Easier said than done. When you lose what seems like everything in a place where you have few people to turn to, it's hard to keep yourself from going into a state of shock or hysterics. Panicking doesn't help. It never does. Instead, go through what happened between the last time you saw your wallet or passport and when you discovered it lost. Sort of like James Comey, take contemporaneous notes that help you to recall these events when the time comes to do so.
Step 2: Find the nearest police station and report what happened. The duty officer may not understand English, but there is a good chance that someone at a nearby station does. Again, stay calm and be patient. Your goal at this point is to get a police report detailing what happened to your passport, to the best of your knowledge.
Step 3: Arrange for someone you know to wire funds to you. If you still have your electronics, you can do this through any wifi hot spot. Unfortunately, at the Lviv train station, getting onto a Wifi hot spot requires paying for access, so it's best to hope that you have some hryvnia tucked away to do this. You can also email American Citizen Services (ACS) in Kyiv to give them a heads up that you are coming. For me, this helped, though there was an automated response at first that suggested that sometimes the response time might be up to five days. Despite this, it might still be worth a shot.
Step 4: Get to the US Embassy. The easiest way to get there is by the Red Line of the Metro, which is the line that the Passenger (main) Train Station is on. Heading towards Akademmistechko station, go three stops from the train station (Vokzalna) to Berestiska. You will then need to walk about 15 minutes along Laherna (Dehtiarivska) street to the Zhabaieva street stoplight, and then take a left, following Zhabaieva until you see the American flag (your own personal Mark Twain moment). When you get to the gate where everyone who has appointments is waiting, this may be where things get tricky. You will need to get the attention of the guards inside, tell them that you need to see American Citizen Services, and when they ask if you have an appointment, you will need to tell them that you are an emergency case. If you have managed to email them ahead of time, you have a chance of getting someone to let you in. If you have gotten in touch by phone Protected content business hours, Protected content after hours), you have a much better chance.
Step 5: Get an Identification Letter. If you have gotten someone to wire you money, and you've tried to get it from a Western Union connected bank, you might have found by now that a photocopy of your passport's picture page is not enough. You will need to get an identification letter first. This is a letter issued by the Embassy stating that you are who you say you are, and that you are in the process of getting your passport replaced. Bear in mind, this isn't a travel document. It's main purpose for you is to pick up funds. The Embassy will ask you to fill out forms while they take down your police report details and ask you a few questions to help with their understanding of your situation. They will also take your picture. This picture will be on the identification letter, stamped of course to help authenticate it. Once you have this, you are ready for the next step.
(Part 2 details Steps 6-8, and concludes this post.)