Emergency passports and exit visas

Having had my passport stolen in Ethiopia, I would like to add something to the information on passports and visa. In my country of origin I am an attorney specialized in immigration law. Let’s put it this way: now I am also one specialized in Ethiopian immigration law. The procedure to obtain an emergency-passport and an exit visa is quite an adventure.

The first thing you need to do is report the theft (or loss). Preferably this has to be done with the local police of the area the theft has taken place. However, the local police can be very helpful, but not very forthcoming to write an official report. In our case we had to write it ourself. These kind of reports will never be accepted by your embassy or by the immigration service. If the local police is not willing to give a typed, stamped and signed report, go to the regional police. Ask them kindly to write the report in Amharic, with your name, nationality and passport-number in English.

After this you need to translate the report into English as this is required by your embassy. The translation can be performed by official translation bureaus, which can be found in Addis Ababa near the Stadium. When you have obtained the translation, you have to authenticate the translation at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. After this you have to legalize the documents (the report and the translation) at the Ministry of Forreign Affairs.

Equipped with the authenticated and legalized documents you can apply for the emergency passport at your embassy. Take two passport photo’s and a copy of your old passport. The issuance of the emergency-passport should normally take 24 hours.

Having obtained the emergency passport you can apply for the exit visa. This visa is required to leave the country and can not be obtained at Bole airport. The exit visa needs to be applied for at the Ethiopian Immigration service. The process itself can take a whole day, as you need to pass about six or seven rooms. When you have paid, it takes about 24 hours for the exit visa to be issued. When you explain what has happened and emphasize that there is an emergency, it might help to get the visa the same day.


We were very lucky to have a driver (with car) who spoke Amharic. He helped us through the whole process. My advise would be to take someone with you that speaks Amharic. He or she will be able to get you in front of the rows and explain that there is an emergency. The keyword in the process is: respect. Treat all the civil servants with respect and just kindly explain that you need to leave the country as soon as possible. As I have experienced it, the country relies more on personal relations of respect, than on procedures that you can call upon. Bring a book, food and try be patient!