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I've lost my passport abroad! What do I do now?

I've lost my passport abroad! What do I do now?

The following article was written by Nabas International Lawyers, a trading name of Cubism Ltd. Based in London, Nabas is an international law firm that specialises in international and domestic business law. These qualified lawyers can help minimise the inconvenience of losing your passport abroad.

The British passport is the joint eighth strongest in the world which means passport holders can travel to 173 countries. But losing it can create complex issues.  Over 20,000 burgundy books were reported lost or stolen globally between 2014-2015: so what happens next for these unlucky travellers?

Fortunately, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can help. It issued over 37,000 Emergency Travel Documents (ETRs) during the same period. This article will outline what you need to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Step 1: Is an ETR right for you? 

An ETR allows you to travel through a maximum of 5 countries, and you can also use it to return to where you are now, if you live in the country you’re applying from. Your existing British passport will usually be cancelled. 

You’ll need to check whether the countries you intend to travel through accept ETRs. You can find this information here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Your travel plan (countries and dates) will be printed on your ETR. If you need to change your travel plan, you’ll need a new ETR.
You’ll normally get an ETR within two days, sometimes as quickly as 24 hours. It costs £100 which you can pay online or in the consulate.

Step 2: Are you eligible?

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to all of them, you’re eligible. 

1.  Are you a British national? This means you are either a:

i)   British citizen, 

ii)  British overseas territories citizen,

iii) British overseas citizen,

iv) British subject,

v)  British national (overseas); or a

vi) British protected person

2.  Are you outside of the UK?

3.  Has your passport been lost, stolen, damaged, is full or has recently expired?

4.  Do you not have time to renew or replace your passport before you travel?

5.  Can you can provide proof of your travel plans, for example booking confirmations?

  • If you’re a British citizen, go to step 3.

  • If you’re a British national but not a citizen, go to step 4.

    You usually can’t get an emergency travel document if you’ve never had a British passport. Contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate if you need to travel urgently and don’t have time to apply for a passport before you travel.

Step 3: The online application (British citizens)

Spend about 15 minutes applying for an Emergency Travel Document and booking an appointment at the local British embassy. You can do this online if you’re over 16 and a British citizen, at https://www.apply-emergency-travel-document.service.gov.uk/ 

To complete this online application you’ll need an email address, and you’ll also have to bring the following to your embassy appointment:

  1. proof of your travel plans, e.g. flight booking confirmations (or detailed written travel plans if you can't book ahead),

  2. a local police report if your passport has been stolen or your current passport if you still have it,

  3. proof of residency if your final destination is outside the UK or the European Economic Area; and  4.  a passport-sized photograph.

Step 4: The paper application (British Nationals)

If you’re over 16, a British national but not a citizen, you’ll need to contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate to arrange an appointment.

Download and complete the following form and attend your appointment, where you’ll also have to pay the fee.


We hope this short guide has helped you prepare for the worst or, if the worst has already happened, minimise your inconvenience.