Passports and visas
Step one in your travel planning - get your documents sorted.
If you wish to travel abroad you must hold a full passport, even for a day trip.
Applying for a passport
To get yourself a passport, apply in plenty of time to the UK Passport Office. You can apply online, but do it more than four weeks beforehand. Once you have sent off your application form they will post you the printout to sign and return with passport photos and any other documents they might need. Alternatively, you can get a copy of the form from your local Post Office or Worldchoice travel agent.
The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) provides a fast track service at its public counters to customers who need a passport urgently (in less than two weeks). It operates on an appointment-only basis with appointments made through the IPS Adviceline on 0870 521 0410. This service is only available to people who want to renew their passports, as first-time adult applicants may be required to have an interview.
Passport interviews were introduced on June 1, 2007 to further protect individuals' identities as part of the application process. You may be asked to attend an interview if you are 16 or over, and are applying for a passport for the first time.
Make sure that your passport is valid for the whole of your trip. Some countries have an immigration requirement for a passport to remain valid for a minimum period (usually at least six months) beyond the date of entry to the country. Check what is required before you go by addressing questions to their Consulate or Embassy. The London Diplomatic List has all the contact info you need for each country.
If you plan to travel outside British territories you may require a visa to enter the country you are going to. If you are already a resident of an EU member state it is unlikely that this will be required for other EU countries. For all visa enquiries contact the Consulate or Embassy of the country you plan to visit.
If you are a British Dependent Territories Citizen, British Overseas Citizen, British Subject, British National Overseas, or a British Protected Person, you may need a visa that is not required by British Citizens.
Travelling to the United States
Until recently, British citizens travelling to the USA for less than 90 days could, subject to certain conditions, travel without a visa and simply completed a form on the plane. However, all that changed in 2008 and now visitors who do not need a visa must complete an electronic application at least 72 hours before departure.
Top tips for keeping your documents safe
- Make a note of the passport number, date and place of issue, and keep this separately in a safe place.
- Check the passport expiry date.
- Complete the Next of Kin details at the back.
- If you've got a web-based email account, scan your passport and email it to yourself.
- Leave a photocopy of your passport with a friend or relative at home.
- Take a second means of photo ID with you.
- Keep your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy with you.
- If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, contact the nearest British Consulate or Embassy immediately for advice.
- Make sure that any children who are travelling on your passport will still be 16 by the end of your journey (if not they will need their own passport).
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