Tens of thousands of expats, business travellers and holidaymakers report their passports lost or stolen to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office every year.
Many end up in the hands of criminals who target foreigners to steal their passports.
Even though the passport has special security measures, biometric data and is printed on special paper with uniquely sourced inks, crooks can still tamper with them.
One of the most recent cases was when two Iranians boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on stolen passports from Thailand.
The plane disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. All 239 passengers and crew are missing presumed dead.
200,000 passports missing
In 2015, the British government reported a 22% increase in the number of stolen travel documents.
Leaving out the time and inconvenience, the average cost of replacement emergency travel documents worked at almost £170, while less than 10% of travel insurance policies include cover for the expense.
That adds up to a massive £3.5 million in fees to the British government for emergency travel documents replacing the 20,600 missing passports.
More than 200,000 British passports have gone missing since 2008.
Most disappear in France and Spain, which account for around a quarter of all missing British passports.
Security experts say passports are precious to criminals, such as human traffickers, terrorists and drug dealers who can assume a ‘clean’ identity to pass across borders undetected.
Emergency travel documents allow travellers to pass borders if they cannot replace their British passport in time for the trip.
Applying for emergency passports
The emergency passport is only available outside the UK and they are only issued five days before the travel date unless the holder needs a visa in their new destination.
The emergency papers restrict travel to five countries – including a return journey.
If an entry or exit visa is required, a separate application has to be made to the appropriate government authority.
The fee is £95.
Applications have to be made in person at a British embassy, high commission or consulate – and an appointment may have to be booked for some applications.
To apply, taker these to the appointment – clink the links for more detailed information:
- A completed application form
- A passport-sized photo
- Proof of travel plans, such as tickets and itineraries
- A copy of the police report confirming a passport as stolen
Applications for children under 16 are more complicated – read about the rules here