USPS lost my passport. What now?
June 3, 2014 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Somehow the USPS has lost my passport, which was mailed from NYC to Boston. What are my next steps?

So I recently applied for a Belarussian tourist visa at the Belarussian consulate in NYC, with my Indian passport. The visa was granted, but they required a further week for processing, so I provided them with a self-addressed USPS envelope, with tracking, so that they could send the passport to my apartment in Boston.

A week or so later, we saw that the package had entered the USPS tracking system, and then a day or so later, it was in Boston.

Unfortunately at that point, it took a random detour to Indianapolis (!), where it stayed, getting pinged around from one sorting center to another. The last I heard of it was on Memorial Day, where it was tracked as leaving a particular Indianapolis shipping center.

Today I called USPS, and they say they will open a case within the next 24 hours, and then the case worker I am assigned will investigate the case within the next 72 hours from that. What are my chances here? Has anyone had similar happen to them? Did you get your package in the end? Should I start the 2-3 week process to get a new Indian passport right away? I have a trip planned to Montreal on July 4th (I have a green card, so don't need a Canadian visa thankfully, but I will still likely need to show my passport at the border) and a two week trip to Belarus planned starting July 14th, for which I will need both my passport and a Belarus visa. Any advice for me?
posted by peacheater to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh no. I've never had something like that happen, but I have had to get a last minute passport before...It was a U.S. passport, but it was possible to do same-day in NYC. Have you talked to the Indian consulate yet or wherever you go to get a new passport to confirm that there isn't a last minute option? That way you could keep waiting a little while for the mail.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2014

things that make me go "huh." the USPS has been very reliable in my experience. if something is "lost in the mail", it has, in every instance, never been mailed in the first place, or somebody got to it. did your SSAE show the byelorussian embassy as the return address? did your passport have an rfid chip that would tell someone what it is from inside the envelope?

tommy the terrorist might have gotten it, but it's more likely freddie the federal agent diverted it to indianapolis for further inspection, and if he's managed to lose it, you will not likely see it again.
posted by bruce at 8:26 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are you driving to Montreal, or are you taking a commercial carrier? The latter may be unwilling to transport you without a passport.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:23 AM on June 3, 2014

Response by poster: We actually figured out a plausible explanation for why the mail could have been diverted to Indiana. It was mailed to Somerville, MA and apparently there is a Somerville, IN. So, given my husband's lamentable handwriting, it's entirely possible that some automated system decided to send the mail to Somerville, Indiana upon arrival in Boston, rather than Somerville, Massachusetts. I don't really think it's necessary to construct conspiracy theories about federal agents. In fact, forget that this was a passport altogether, what have you done in the past when USPS has mislaid your mail? (I have had a parcel not reach me when shipped via USPS before, so I'm sure it does happen.)
posted by peacheater at 10:34 AM on June 3, 2014

Response by poster: We are driving to Montreal, but I'm pretty sure I will need to show a passport regardless.
posted by peacheater at 10:34 AM on June 3, 2014

Best answer: I had a perfectly ordinary package, mailed the week before this Christmas, fail to arrive until February. Though it had a pre-printed address label, it underwent similar pinging to what you describe, and I still don't understand why it went to Alaska (we are in the lower 48) and then was processed through our local facility several times. Similarly, a package mailed to me at the end of April still has not arrived, despite a "case" having been opened a week prior. USPS (outside of Registered Mail) is crap, sorry to say. At this point, though, it seems like your best bet is to try to get the passport out of them. It's probably less work to politely but insistently call them every day than it is to try to get an expedited Indian passport and then the new visa. Since it's not 100% clear at this point that your original is lost, could you even get a new one? The good news is that it's extremely unlikely that the barcode is incorrect; if it's still getting scanned, it's out there in the system and not lost, per se. Eventually a kindly postal worker should find it and get it to you. Make sure that the USPS has the name inside the passport as well as your contact information, in case it has been loosed from its envelope.
posted by wnissen at 11:32 AM on June 3, 2014

(When you're driving to Montreal, you will, in fact, need to show a passport - and certainly on the way back, too. I'm not sure, but I think a passport is required in addition to a green card to re-enter the US. I certainly wouldn't leave the country without a valid passport in hand...)
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:41 PM on June 3, 2014

If it isn't a burden, maybe go to the post office in person to to see if they have some magical tracker tool or can do something in in the system.
posted by k8t at 12:48 PM on June 3, 2014

Best answer: I have had mixed luck with USPS generally but good luck with their support people staying on top of things if you stay on top of them. That is, I think you should give them time to open the case and give you a real-world estimate of your chances before you start the headache that is getting a new passport. Also, on the very off chance that you have a driver's license from a border state (VT or NY) you could consider getting an enhanced license to get you across the land border and then buy yourself some time before the Belarus trip (also if you are driving up I am at exit 4, feel free to stop off for a cup of coffee and a bathroom break :))
posted by jessamyn at 3:26 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am in 2.5 weeks into a lost mail case with the USPS involving mail going to the IRS that should have been postmarked 4.15 (certified mail the post office lost track of it after it left a processing center). A comical series of errors on their part led to my being sent to Consumer Affairs. They sent me form email that contained inaccurate information and instructions about how to open a case (I had already done that). I replied to Consumer Affairs, but the email address never got back to me. No one ever got back to me.

I tallied up the minutes I spent on the phone with USPS and since it had topped four hours (not including two trips to two separate post offices) I have just let it go.

If you start with Consumer Affairs for your area you might get somewhere. Also my case could be an anomaly, maybe USPS is great. I will say that the IRS understood my predicament and seems to be willing to forgive that my documentation will not make a three year deadline. So yay IRS! Boo USPS. They are a nightmare right now. No two people I talked two within USPS gave me the same story for the procedure regarding what happens once you open a case for lost certified first-class mail. I talked to maybe six different people.
posted by CtrlAltD at 6:57 PM on June 3, 2014

As both a shipper and a receiver, I have had mixed success with USPS as well. Their support people are generally pretty good but it moves... slowly, if at all. The last time I didn't get the (extremely banged up) package for about a month. Several times, I've gotten bupkiss. I'd see what USPS has to say but I wouldn't get my hopes up on a timely resolution.
posted by sm1tten at 7:03 PM on June 3, 2014

Once you open the claim, your chances are a lot better for receiving the package. This happened to me and I thought it was pretty much a lost cause, but once I called, got them to start the process of tracking it and getting it back on the correct path, I got my package within a few days. So don't give up hope!
posted by emcat8 at 8:44 PM on June 3, 2014

Response by poster: An update: Just got a response to an earlier emailed inquiry from my husband to USPS: they've found the parcel and it should arrive today or tomorrow! I'm going to wait until I actually hold my passport in my hands again before I celebrate, but I'm breathing much easier now. Thanks everyone!
posted by peacheater at 6:16 AM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Passport now in my hands! Yay!
posted by peacheater at 11:49 AM on June 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

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