Lost a UK Passport Abroad? Here’s What to do!

a passport with a microscope

You’ve lost your UK passport abroad and are currently having a meltdown. Don’t worry, we’ll share how to report it, replace it or get an emergency UK travel document or passport to get you home! We promise it is simpler than you think and you can apply online if you have a travel deadline coming up and you don’t want to miss that plane! Even if you haven’t lost a UK passport, read on, as we have some vital tips on pre-trip passport planning...

What to do if you’ve lost a UK passport when abroad

It’s what holiday nightmares are made of. You’ve been having a fabulous holiday: whether relaxing by a pool, hiking mountains or eating your way through tapas bars in Spain. The last thing anyone wants is to have lost their passport! If this poor soul is you, don’t despair. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. You have to report a lost UK passport when abroad - if you’ve been unfortunate enough to have had your UK passport stolen, you will also need to report this to the local police.

  2. Replace it or get an emergency UK travel document or passport - getting a new UK passport overseas can take up to six weeks. If you have plans to travel to another country or back to the UK soon, you can get an emergency UK travel document. This should arrive approximately two working days after you apply!

  3. Replace it - when you safely return home, you will need to replace your lost passport with a brand new one.

We’ve read a lot of horror stories and odd ways in which people lose their passports. One such story was about a lady visiting the Grand Canyon in the USA. She had a tradition of taking a picture of her passport when she visited amazing places. As she went to take this habitual photo of her passport at the Grand Canyon a gust of wind blew it out of her hand and into the canyon. You can imagine how upsetting that would be. Learn from others and don’t let this be you!

How do I report a lost or stolen UK passport when abroad?

You must cancel a lost or stolen UK passport as soon as possible. This will reduce the chance of someone using your passport and identity. You can cancel your passport online.

If your passport has been stolen then you also have to report it to the local police. Keep any crime report details and reference numbers they give you, as you may need these when applying for a replacement or emergency travel document.

If you need to get an emergency UK travel document, your lost or stolen passport usually needs to be cancelled before you apply, so make this priority number one!

How do I get an emergency UK travel document or passport?

If you need an emergency UK travel document (sometimes referred to as an emergency UK Passport) you are not alone! Approximately 80 are issued to British nationals every day. In fact, it is estimated that lost passports when abroad cost Brits £5 million annually.

If you need an emergency UK travel document/passport, you can apply online. It only takes around 15 minutes to complete.

image of papers

You will need to give a contact phone number and email address when you apply. After you’ve submitted your application, you will be notified whether or not you need to attend an appointment at a British embassy, high commission or consulate.

Once you have finished the application process (including appointment, if necessary), you should receive your emergency UK travel documentin two working days. This timeframe is a guide and can take longer if you:

  • Applied for a child under 16.

  • Haven’t paid.

  • Haven’t given the correct supporting documents.

  • Haven’t given enough or correct information.

As of September 2019, the cost to apply for one online is £100. Once you have applied you’ll be told how and when you’ll receive your emergency UK travel document.

What will an emergency travel document/passport let you do?

You can only apply for an emergency travel document/passport if you are outside of the UK. If you have lost your passport in the UK and need to travel urgently, you can apply for a fast track passport.

person on an island with the word help

You can use an emergency travel document to travel to your destination (through a maximum of five countries). It is very important to get your travel information correct in your application. The countries and dates you plan on travelling will be printed on your emergency travel document. If you change your travel plans after you receive it you will need to re-apply.

Your emergency travel document is only valid for the travel dates and countries stated for that specific journey. The immigration team at your final destination should take the document from you and keep it. If they do not, you must return it to your nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate who will process it and destroy it. You can then apply for a new, replacement passport (see more details below).

If you have any visas attached to your lost passport, you may need to re-purchase these for your journey home. Make sure you check with the embassy or consulate of each country as soon as possible.

Am I eligible to apply for an emergency UK travel document?

There are certain eligibility criteria you need to meet to apply for an emergency travel document. If you’ve lost your passport when abroad, you can apply if:

  • You’re a British national.

  • You don’t have time to replace your passport before you travel. As we mentioned earlier, depending on the country you are in, this can take up to six weeks. This means that most travellers will need an emergency travel document in this situation.

  • You can provide proof of your travel plans i.e. booking confirmations. If you cannot book ahead you will need to provide detailed written travel plans.

Can I apply for an emergency UK travel document on behalf of someone else?

You can apply for an emergency UK travel document on behalf of someone else but there are some restrictions:

  • The person you are applying on behalf of must be a British citizen.

  • They might have to attend an appointment (if they are under 16 this will always apply).

  • They have to collect their emergency travel document in person.

How do I replace a lost UK passport?

You’ve made it home on your trusty emergency travel document, so now you will want to replace your lost passport. The process for replacing a lost UK passport differs depending on whether you are living in the UK or not.

Living in the UK

If you’re living in the UK, you have two options on how to replace a lost UK passport:

  1. You can choose to replace it online. As of September 2019, this process costs £75.50. You will need a digital photo and you’ll also have to ask someone to confirm your identity online.

  2. If you’re sick of filling in online forms by this stage, you can get a paper form. As of September 2019, this process costs £85. You can pick a paper form up at a post office or call the passport advice line on 0300 222 0000. You’ll also need to include two identical new photos of yourself. One has to be signed by someone else* to prove your identity.

*There are strict guidelines about who can and can’t witness your passport photo. The person must:
 Not be related to you or live at the same address.
 Have known you (or the adult who signed the form if the passport is for a child under 16) for at least two years.
 Be able to identify you, for example, they’re a friend, neighbour or colleague (not just someone who knows you professionally).
 Be ‘a person of good standing in their community’ or work in (or be retired from) a recognised profession.

It will usually take three weeks to receive your new passport but could be longer if there are issues with the information you provided.

Living outside the UK

If you’re living outside the UK, the process varies depending on which country you are in. You can apply through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) or contact your closest British embassy, high commission or consulate.

Will travel insurance cover a lost passport?

passport with plane tickets

You should always take out travel insurance before you go away. Most travel insurance policies provide some level of cover for lost passports and associated costs. For example, if you need an emergency UK travel document your insurer may help you cover the costs and any additional holiday expenses such as missed flights and accommodation.

Choose your travel insurance wisely and always read the policy wording carefully before you travel. You could find that you’re not covered in certain circumstances i.e. if your passport is stolen from your room, and wasn’t in the room’s safe (or hotel’s safety deposit box if there’s no safe in the room).

Can I prepare for a lost passport overseas?

As the famous saying goes: hope for the best, plan for the worst. Most people are lucky enough to go through life without losing a passport. Accidents happen though. Even if you’re the most cautious person you know, it never hurts to be prepared.

Here are our top tips on helping future you in the event you are overseas and have lost your passport. These are in no particular order as they’re all important!

  • Get at least two colour photocopies of your passport. Keep one with you and give one to a family member or friend you’re not travelling with.

  • Take a photo of your passport page with your photo and details on it. Email this to yourself so it’s never far away. Even if you’re unfortunate enough to lose your phone with your passport, you can log onto a computer and get your details.

  • Have up to date passport photos with you when you travel, just in case!

  • Take out a travel insurance policy before you go.

We hope this annoying travel incident never happens to you. If it does, you can see it is a surprisingly straight-forward process to get an emergency UK travel document and replace a lost passport. Wishing you and your passport many safe and happy travels in the future.

Data and information correct as of September 2019.

All material on this page and the selectra.co.uk website is for information purposes only and does not constitute any form of financial advice. Selectra.co.uk is not responsible for any consequences that might arise from your use of the information provided.

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