Using your e-passport for the first time

It’s always exciting when you go away, but even more so if it’s your first time abroad. With the introduction of ‘biometric’ passports, you now have the opportunity to go through the e-passport gates instead of the normal ‘Border Force’ gate. Here’s everything you need to know about these newfangled travel documents:

Do I have to take a ‘special’ photograph for an e-passport?

No. You can use any normal passport photo, however, it must be in the size stated by the Passport Office: 45mm high and 35mm wide.

Glasses and passport photos

You are not permitted to wear tinted glasses or sunglasses, but you can wear reading glasses, provided that your eyes are fully shown with no reflections or glare.

How do I know I have an e-passport?

If you have a look at the bottom of your passport cover, you should see what looks like a ‘filled-in’ version of the London Underground emblem; this is officially known as a ‘biometric’ logo. If you have this, then you have an e-passport.

Can anyone use the e-passport gate?

No. If your passport does not have a biometric logo, you will be forced to use the normal Border Control gates, which may take longer.

How do I use an e-passport gate?

The readers can be positioned either outside the gate or inside, depending on the airport.

1. If there are markings of where you need to stand, place your feet on the marks.
2. Open the page where your picture is shown
3. Place the picture face-down on the reader
4. Look directly at the camera (don’t forget to take your glasses off if you’re not wearing glasses in the picture; don’t obstruct your face with head coverings or hair)
5. Keep still (do not smile as you are not smiling in your photograph)
6. When the light goes green, you may exit.

Enjoy your holiday and don’t forget to check that your e-passport is in date!

Four ways to look after your passport while travelling

So you’ve got your passport photos printed off and sent off for your new passport ahead of your travelling adventure abroad, but have you thought about ways to keep your passport safe while you’re off travelling the world?

Whether you’re backpacking, off to a music festival or about to embark on a peaceful and relaxing family holiday, these tips should help you keep your passport safe.

1. Plan passport storage

While travelling, it might seem easy to store your passport in your suitcase or in hold luggage. Not only is this inconvenient when you land (you’ll need your passport to get through border control!) if your bag gets lost or gets stolen off the luggage belt, you’ll have no way of getting through security. Make sure you keep your passport on you at all times when you’re not storing it safely.

2. Find your nearest locker/safe

It’s almost impossible to not find a locker or a safe – regardless of your accommodation. If you’re staying in a hotel, you may have a safe in your room. If not, there will definitely be one at reception. If you’re backpacking, the majority of main city train stations will have lockers and, if you’re at a festival, they should have lockers situated in the marketplace area.

3. Bring labels or plain stickers for your passport

Should you lose your passport it’s always handy to have noted down where you are staying on it. You can do this easily by bringing plain label stickers with you and writing “If found, please return to [accommodation name] by [approx. date you are leaving]. While this may not be as simple if you’re not staying in the same place, it’s worth thinking about.

4. Bring a concealed money belt

While a bum bag might seem like a good idea, these are more likely to be stolen as they are visible. If you need to carry your passport on your person, try and find a concealed money belt large enough to house a passport and this will be kept out of sight. Don’t dip in to this throughout the day, as thieves may spot this, which defeats the point of concealing it.

Just in case you do lose your passport, don’t forget to find out where your nearest Embassy office is beforehand!

Photo: #41 - Flying by JohnONolan licensed under Creative commons 2

What to do if you lose your passport abroad

Brits going abroad may well dread the whole process of getting our passports renewed, with everything from the passport photo to the cost causing us anxieties. But there is one thing we dread even more when it comes to our passports – and that’s losing them.

It’s the moment we all fear. We’re packing up to go home from holiday or a business trip, we look for our passport so we can put it in the handy pocket ready to present several times at passport control and at the airport on our way home, and we can’t find it. We turn the whole room upside down, empty every drawer, look under the bed and ask at the hotel reception, but it’s not there.

So what should we do in this situation?

You need to spring into action, and do two things immediately.

Firstly, if you suspect your passport has been stolen, you need to contact the local police right away. Passport theft is a serious crime, and any criminal in possession of your legal identifying documents needs to be stopped, for international security as well as for your own. When you report your passport missing or stolen, it will be ‘cancelled’ and can’t be used by anyone else.

Secondly, you need to get an emergency travel document, otherwise known as an emergency passport.

This is a document that works in place of your passport, with very restricted guidelines, and can help to get you home. You can get an emergency passport at your nearest British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission, which you can find by visiting Once you’re there, they can provide you with your emergency passport, or they can tell you where to go to get one. You’ll need a few pieces of documentation, so call ahead and find out what they need you to bring.

Once you have your document, you’ll be able to use it to get home, or to the country you’re headed for, via a maximum of five other countries on the way. You’ll need to stick to your itinerary as provided to the Embassy, and you’ll need to complete the journey within a narrow timeframe as specified at the time you applied.

We hope you never need to know this, but now you do, so spread the word among friends and family – just in case.

Home Office confirms no immediate change to passport post-Brexit

There are no immediate plans to bring the traditional blue British passport back following the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, the Home Office has confirmed.

The larger format passports were scrapped in 1988 when the standard EU-wide burgundy ones were adopted by the UK.

And the Home Office has revealed that there are “no plans” to alter the existing passport after Home Secretary Amber Rudd was quizzed on the matter in Parliament.

Michael Fabricant, a pro-Brexit Conservative MP who represents the Lichfield constituency in Staffordshire, lodged a parliamentary question in the House of Commons, asking Ms Rudd if she planned to take steps to “introduce a new passport with a navy blue colour for the UK following the exit of the UK from the EU”.

But, responding to Mr Fabricant’s query, Robert Goodwill, Home Office minister, said: “There are no immediate plans for changes to the format or colour of the UK passport.

“Parliament will be informed of any changes to the passport following the UK withdrawal from the EU.”

It means those of us heading overseas can expect little change to the usual procedures when procuring a passport.

Whether you are renewing your passport, or looking to acquire one for the first time, the existing guidelines will hold sway – for the immediate future at least.

And, with any UK exit from the European Union unlikely to happen within two years of the start of formal separation talks, travellers should rest easy that their new passport, when it comes, will stay valid for some time to come.

Of course, you still need to satisfy the existing criteria when it comes to applying for the documentation – and that includes your passport photo.

The Passport Office requires snapshots that are up to professional standards and measure 45 mm high by 35 mm across.

Other rules include a neutral expression – so no smiling – the need to be facing directly ahead and the absence of red eye in the shot.

So make sure to stick to those all-important HM Passport Office guidelines when submitting your picture alongside your application.

Photo: #41 - Flying by JohnONolan licensed under Creative commons 2