UK Passport-General immigration

What to Do If You Lose Your Passport

It’s bad enough losing your passport while you’re at home, but what happens if you lose it while you’re travelling in another country? If you’ve ever gone through the experience, you know how frightening that can be. A fantastic trip can quickly turn into a real-life nightmare. It’s hard not to panic, but try to remain calm.

The good news is that losing your passport or having it stolen while abroad is a hassle, but it certainly doesn’t mean you’re stuck in a foreign country forever. Follow these steps to prevent a major interruption to your well-laid travel plans:

Report it missing immediately

Whether you’re home or travelling to European destinations abroad, be sure to report your lost passport immediately. If you’re travelling and it was stolen, contact the local police department and file a report; you may be able to do this online rather than waiting around at a local police station. When your passport is lost, in theory, it should be useless to anyone due to the security measures built in, but unfortunately, that’s not the case as passports are routinely used for illegal activity. They’re like “gold” to criminals - while many lost passports end up being destroyed or tossed away, some do end up in the hands of criminal gangs.

Whether it’s lost or stolen you’ll also need to report it to the nearest embassy or consulate of your home country. If it was stolen, be sure to let the officer know you were the victim of a crime. Either way, inform them of the date you plan to depart from the country. If there isn’t much time before you, they’ll be able to get you a limited validity emergency travel document; if you have longer, you may be able to get a full validity passport. Once you’ve reported it missing, your lost or stolen passport will be cancelled, so even if you find it eventually you won’t be able to use it.

Download, print and complete the application form, then book an appointment

You can apply for a passport online here. You must then contact the British embassy or consulate closest to you, and book an appointment.

Get passport photos taken

When you go to the embassy or consulate, you’ll need two passport photos, so before you go, find a place to have your picture taken. The photos must conform to UK official standards, so check if the local photo booth can provide these. Arriving with your photos will help speed up the process of obtaining your replacement passport.

Gather your documents

In addition to the passport photo, you’ll need some form of ID (such as your driver’s licence), your travel itinerary (such as your return airline ticket), evidence of your citizenship (a scan or copy of your missing passport or birth certificate) and the police report if you’ve filed one. Even if you are unable to present all these documents, the consular staff will help you replace your passport as quickly as possible.

Visit the embassy or consulate

Staff will receive your application and supporting documents, and your application for an emergency travel document will be considered. Unless you’ve been a victim of a serious crime or natural disaster, you’ll have to pay the applicable fee to get it replaced. If you don’t have the funds, the fee may be temporarily waived until you return home and apply for a full-valid passport.

You’ll likely receive an emergency document within 48 hours so that you’ll be able to return home according to your existing travel plans. Once you’ve arrived home, you’ll turn in the emergency travel document to get a full-valid passport.

Precautions to take next time

Replacing a lost or stolen passport is certainly inconvenient, but don’t beat yourself up too much about it. You aren’t the first person and you won’t be the last to have this happen. The important thing is to consider it an important lesson learned and take these precautions next time:

  1. Keep a photo of your passport photo page on your phone, and maybe take along a printed copy to store in your luggage.
  2. Carry your passport on your person, if possible. Keep it in an inside pocket of your purse or in a money belt. Keep the purse or money belt in front of you, with the zipper closed.
  3. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, make use of the combination safe in your room if you have one.
  4. If you’re travelling as a family, each person old enough should carry their own passport. If one person carries them all, you risk losing all your passports at once. For young children, spread the passports out among the adults to lessen risk.
  5. Check on your passport regularly to make sure it’s where you think it is.
  6. During your travels when you have to frequently get your passport out to board a plane, don’t make the mistake of putting it in the seat pocket in front of you. Hold onto it and as soon as you reach your seat, return it to a secure spot where it won’t be forgotten. It’s easy to forget a passport, even on the shortest journeys.

This article was written by K.C. Dermody at Travelwise. 

FAQs about lost or stolen passports

What should I do if I lost my passport in UK jurisdiction?
If you have lost your passport, you should report it to the passport office as missing as soon as possible - you can do this via the government site. This will cancel your passport meaning no one else will be able to use it, including yourself if you happen to find it.

You will need to verify your identity by providing a UK phone number or email address that is associated with your passport.

Once you have reported your passport as missing and it has been cancelled, you will need to apply for a new passport. This replacement will cost you £82.50 (or £93 if you apply by post) and you will not be able to organise any international travel until you receive the physical copy.

If you need to get a new passport on short notice, you will need to use the premium emergency passport service. This service is more expensive but will reduce the time you need to wait until you get your new passport.

What should I do if I lost my passport overseas?
If you have lost your passport while outside of the UK, you will need to notify the passport office via the UK government site. You will need to cancel your lost passport and apply for a new one.

  • If you are a British national stranded overseas, you can use this resource to apply for a new passport abroad.
  • If you are a citizen of another country, you will need to follow your home country's process for passport application.

If you have lost your passport and need to travel soon, you will need to apply for an emergency passport by following this emergency travel document process. This will allow you to get a passport more quickly but comes with a higher fee.

Managing your passport while travelling can be stressful - learn what to do if you lost your passport abroad by speaking to our team as soon as possible.

What should I do if my passport is lost in the post?

If you are waiting for your passport to be delivered by Royal Mail and you believe it may have been lost in transit, you should speak to a professional immigration solicitor - such as those at Latitude Law - to try and figure out where it may be. If Royal Mail is responsible for losing your passport, you may be able to claim compensation.

After you have spoken to a Royal Mail representative with the help of your solicitor and found that your passport is irrecoverable, you will need to cancel it by reporting it as lost. You will then need to apply for a replacement passport to be sent to you.

What should I do if I lost my child's passport?

If you have lost your child's passport, there is a more complex process of replacing it compared to passports for adults.

First, you must report the passport as lost or stolen, which will cancel it, stopping anyone who may have picked it up from using it. Following this, you will need to apply for a replacement passport. To do so, you will need the following:

  • Any other valid passports your child holds
  • Details of any court orders relating to your child
  • A digital photo of your child
  • Someone who can confirm your child's identity
  • The ability to pay a fee of £53.50 (or £64 if you are applying by post)
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