Page last updated: 04/24/2023
After a disaster, it’s important to have documents that prove who you are and what you own. You may need this proof for disaster aid applications, insurance claims, housing disputes, and more. Other types of documents may be required for health care, insurance payments, and child custody disputes.
What can you do if any of these documents are lost or damaged? This webpage lists some of the most important documents and how you can replace them.
In some cases, you may have to pay a fee to replace the documents. But many organizations won’t require you to pay if the loss or damage was due to a disaster. Always ask. You should also ask whether the fee waiver applies to rush delivery as well as standard delivery.
Deciding which documents to replace first will depend in part on what you consider your more urgent needs. When the U.S. president declares a disaster for an area, people who are affected must apply for federal aid by the announced deadline. That includes applying for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The deadline for applying for FEMA aid is usually within 60 days of a federal disaster declaration. If you apply without including the required documents, FEMA will have to wait for you to provide them before it can approve your application. You’ll want to replace these documents as soon as possible so that you can file a complete application and get speedier approval.
FEMA or other aid providers often require:
This list is not meant to cover every document you may need to replace. But it does include the most common ones.
For most requests, be sure to provide a daytime phone number with area code so you can be reached to answer questions. You’ll also want to provide a mailing address where you can safely receive the documents. Because of disaster-related damage, this might not always be your home address.
Birth and death certificates are filed permanently in a state or local vital records office. To get a certified copy of any of the certificates, write or go to the vital records office in the state or area where the event occurred. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a webpage that can direct you to the vital records office for your state or territory.
The process may be easier if you give the following information when asking for birth or death records:
Visit your state or territory’s Department of Motor Vehicles website and follow the directions for requesting a new driver’s license or state identification card.
To replace your green card, you’ll need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can file your Form I-90 online.
When you file online, you can:
Please note: You can’t file your Form I-90 online if you’re applying for a fee waiver. Obtaining a waiver means you don’t have to pay the filing fee. As of March 2023, the filing fee was $455. Updates on the fee amount can be found on the USCIS website.
You can also print out the PDF form and send your paper application to USCIS at one of the addresses below:
P.O. Box 21262
Phoenix, AZ 85036-1262
There are four ways to ask the Social Security Administration (SSA) for a new card: online, in person, by phone, or by mail. The SSA has an online tool that asks you to answer a few questions so you can find out the best way to apply for a new card.
The SSA website also lists the documents you will need to provide with your request. Be sure to select the Replacement button in the Type of card category. Select whether the card is for an adult or a child. Also select whether it’s for a U.S.-born citizen, a foreign-born citizen, or a noncitizen.
To order a new card online:
To order a new card in person:
To order a new card by phone:
To order a new card by mail:
Take these three steps right away to get a new credit or debit card and to prevent someone else from using your card:
You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You can order it online at annualcreditreport.com. This report can help you get account and creditor information so that you can:
If your electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card is lost or damaged, your state or territory will replace it. To get a replacement EBT card, contact your local Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) office. You can find this office online through the SNAP State Directory of Resources.
Visit FEMA’s website to learn more about proving that you own or rent a home. FEMA will accept other forms of proof if you’ve lost the deed for the home you bought or the lease for the place you’re renting. For example, you might be able to provide a property tax bill or receipt to show that you own your home. For a home you rent, you can prove you’ve been living there by providing a bank statement or utility bill that includes your name and address.
To request a copy of the deed for your home, contact the recorder of deeds or register of deeds office for your county or area. A “deed” is the legal document that transferred the property to you when you bought it.
If you need a copy of your lease, you should be able to get it from your landlord.
You can get exact copies of your income tax returns (with attachments, including your W-2 form) from the IRS. The IRS will not charge you for this service. It will also process your request faster if you are or were living in a federally declared disaster area.
You’ll need to mail Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, to the address of the IRS office for the state or territory you lived in when you filed your return. These addresses are listed on Page 2 of the form.
Another option is to get a tax return transcript. It will satisfy most requests for tax income information and it’s free. The transcript has most line items on your original tax return. The IRS can produce different types of transcripts depending on what you need the transcript for.
Contact the insurance company that provides your home, renter’s, auto, or private health insurance. The company can send an insurance policy document and a new auto or health insurance card to you. Some insurers can email you a card to print out.
See the Medicaid Benefits Card and Medicare Card sections below for instructions on how to replace cards for these government health care programs.
Marriage licenses and divorce decrees are filed permanently in a state or local vital records office. To get a certified copy of your marriage license or divorce decree, write or go to the vital records office in the state or area where you were married or divorced. This CDC webpage can direct you to the vital records office for your state or territory.
When asking for marriage records, the process may be easier if you provide:
When asking for divorce records, the process may be easier if you provide:
Your state or territory’s Medicaid program will be able to help you replace your Medicaid card or prove that you’re eligible for Medicaid. Contact the office where you originally applied. The Medicaid program provides Medicaid office links and phone numbers by state and territory.
You can order a new card by phone or online:
You can replace military service records, including DD214 forms or other separation documents, personnel records, and medical records. You can request your replacements in two ways:
You should report a lost or stolen passport right away. You can do this online; by phone at 877-487-2778; or by mail. To report it by mail, use form DS-64 and send it to the address provided on the form.
To replace a lost or stolen passport, you must submit form DS-11 in person at a passport acceptance facility. Use this passport acceptance facility finder and make an appointment, if needed. These facilities include post offices, clerks of court, public libraries, and other local government offices that accept passport applications on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.
If you need your passport for travel within five weeks, you may be able to make an appointment to apply in person at a passport agency or center.
If the paper copy of your savings bond is lost, stolen, damaged, or destroyed, the U.S. Department of the Treasury gives you two options:
Normally, you must hold the bond for a year before cashing it. But if the problem occurred because you were in a disaster, the Treasury Department may waive that requirement.
The Treasury Department provides step-by-step instructions to disaster survivors for requesting replacements or cashing in.
Visit the Department of Motor Vehicles website for your state, territory, or Washington, D.C. Then follow the directions for requesting a new title.
The best way to avoid having to replace lost documents is to take steps to protect them in case of a disaster. There are two main ways to do this:
Consider this checklist from Heartland Flood Help of the most important documents to keep safe and ready to take with you.