For a lot of people airports can bring on feelings of nervousness and nausea for a vast array of reasons. You want everything to go swimmingly when you are at the airport so that you can get to where you’re going without any hassle, and the cost of plane tickets and the desire to get to your holiday destination or to come back home is adding to the amount of butterflies swooping around in your stomach.


So, if you realise while waiting at the airport that your passport, the most important document in the world at that point in time, is missing, you are likely to go into serious panic mode.


How can you get home without a passport?


Firstly, try not to give yourself a heart attack by blindly panicking. It is a stressful situation to find yourself in but the main thing is to try to remain as calm as possible and know what your options are.


Really, you only have one way to get home if you have lost your passport abroad: try to secure a one-way emergency travel document from the British embassy. This can be used to get yourself home on a new flight. You can also apply for a new passport, but doing so will take at least a few weeks which is not any good for the average traveller who needs to get home.


What is an emergency travel document?


You can think of an emergency travel document as a temporary passport issued to a person who is stranded (usually due to a lost passport) and needs to get home. It is normally only valid for a specific journey.


The Home Office site says this:


You can use an emergency travel document to travel to your destination through a maximum of 5 countries. You can also normally use it to return to the country you’re applying from if you live there.


Your travel plans (countries and dates) will be printed on your emergency travel document. If you change your travel plans once you have your emergency travel document, you’ll need to apply for a new one.

File a police report and ask for a copy:


Before you start the process of getting a temporary travel document, you should file a police report about your missing passport and ask for a copy of it. This way you can be fully reassured and covered if you are asked any questions about the lost passport; it is best to cover all bases.


How do you get an emergency travel document?


You could be forgiven for assuming that applying for an emergency passport would be a huge pain involving a complicated application process, but it is actually rather straight forward.


The process is handled online and is boasted by the Home Office as one of their most successful achievements in terms of accessibility, and while it is a decent system it really does help if you have a scan of your passport, bank cards and driving licence available.


Why do you need this information? Because the emergency travel document application asks for all your passport details and has to be paid for online or over the phone, so you need to have all of this information handy. It is worth taking pictures on your phone and having them saved in your emails so that even if you lose all your belongings, you can log into another computer or phone and access them from there.


Be warned: once you confirm that you are applying for the temporary passport, your real one will not work – even if it’s found again very soon after you apply for the temporary one! So make sure to have a good check for the real passport before you start the process of getting a temporary one.


After you enter your details, you’ll take a photograph of yourself to be used on the temporary passport. You must adhere to regular passport photo rules so remember, no smiling, no glasses and no hair covering your face. If in doubt you can ask airport staff for advice on this.


After this, you will need to upload evidence of your travel plans, for example a picture of your boarding pass for the plan you originally intended to be on.


Following this,  you have to choose where to pick up the document from, they will give you some options and you have to decide which one of them will be the easiest for you.

How much does it cost?


The cost of the temporary passport comes in at £100, which is more than the price of a regular passport, which is to be expected.


How long does it take?


Once it is all submitted, you will get a confirmation email. It should take up to two working days to process if all goes well. If not, they will contact you for further information.


So finally, a summary of the steps:


  1. File a police report within 24 hours about your lost passport.
  2. Apply online for an emergency travel document. It will help immensely if you have a note of your passport details to hand.
  3. Receive the email confirming that your travel document has been issued. Don’t book a return flight until you have that confirmation.
  4. Bring a copy of the email (electronic or paper) to the your chosen embassy or consulate to collect your travel document.


When you get home


If you find your passport:


If it turns out that your passport was hidden away in your luggage the whole time, put it away somewhere where you’re not going to confuse it with your new one, and cut a corner off of it so it is easy to recognise. It’s already been cancelled and therefore permanently invalid, so you can no longer use this passport for travel, and attempting to do so can result in some fines.


Apply for a new passport:


Your emergency passport is designed to get you home quickly but has a very limited life, so if you plan to travel overseas again in the near future, you’ll need to apply for a brand new passport when you get home.


Thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to get in contact with us if you need any legal advice in the future, we are here for you. Call us on 020 7928 0276 or email into


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