Obtaining British passports overseas

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If you are outside the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the British Overseas Territories, you are normally required to renew (or obtain) your British passport at a British diplomatic mission, in other words a British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission.

Applying in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom Passport Office website says:

  • If you live in the UK you can use this website for all your passport needs. If you do not live in the UK you can apply through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) or contact your nearest embassy, consulate or high commission.
  • Alternatively, you may apply in person for a passport whilst visiting the UK. In order to do this, you need to make an appointment at a passport office and you must provide an address in the UK to which the passport may be posted.
  • Please note that we do not accept applications by post or e-mail if you live abroad.

Cost of a British passport overseas

The cost of British passports is higher if you apply at a British mission overseas, compared to the fees charged in the United Kingdom.

  • The Home Office is responsible for issuing passports in the United Kingdom, while the Foreign Office is responsible for issuing passports outside the United Kingdom.
  • This division of responsibility is unusual. In other countries, such as the United States, Ireland and Australia, the relevant Foreign Ministry is responsible for all passports issued.
  • The volume of passports issued by the Home Office is much greater than by the Foreign Office, while the Home Office does not have to manage a number of relatively small and remote processing offices. This means higher costs and while in other countries, these are borne by all passport applicants, those applying for British passports overseas bear the full impact of higher costs.
  • If you disagree with this, then if you have remained on the United Kingdom electoral roll, you may contact your Member of Parliament.


The need for a countersignature has caused problems for many British expatriates newly arrived in their countries of residence.

  • The application form requests that a countersignature be obtained from a person in that country who has known you for 2 years or more.
  • The problem is that most of those who have spent less than 2 years in that country will not be able to find any qualified person.
    • The U.K. Passport Service states that countersignatures are not required for straightforward renewal and there is good evidence that despite what the forms say, this is also the case in British missions overseas. If your appearance hasn't changed greatly, then you don't need a countersignature.
    • Some people have sent the forms back to the United Kingdom to get a U.K. person to countersign.
    • Others have had the local countersignature strike out the 2 years and replace it with the correct period of time (such as 9 months).
  • If a passport is needed urgently, the third option is best.
  • All the evidence suggests that all three of these methods have been accepted.
  • The British Embassy in Washington DC says that applicants from the United States or Canada do not normally require a countersignature to renew an adult passport.

First passport applicants

  • The application forms demand that applicants for a first British passport provide the passport on which they entered that country.
  • Clearly, in a lot of instances, this will be unavailable.
  • If that is the case, just explain the circumstances
  • First passport applicants do need to provide some fairly good proof of identification, especially if applying as an adult.
  • In particular, you should usually send a copy of the ID page of your foreign passport and driving licence (if you have them).

Preserving your evidence of British citizenship and identity

  • Only send originals if these are specifically demanded. Many British missions will need originals of proof of citizenship but will normally accept copies of proof of identity documentation.
  • ALWAYS use a secure courier to send and receive documents, and include a pre-paid envelope for return of documents. Never use regular post.
  • If you must send away an original document, make multiple copies beforehand and get them certified by a solicitor or notary.
  • DON'T send more documentation than is necessary.

Claims to British nationality

There have been numerous reported problems with British missions overseas not understanding British nationality law, especially more complex cases.

  • They are obliged to refer any concerns to the Nationality and Consular Registration Division of the Foreign Office in London, who in turn can contact the Home Office Nationality Directorate in Liverpool for assistance.
  • The contact number for London is +44 (0) 20 7008 1500.
  • British nationality law is complex, but a guide is available in the Home Office Nationality Instructions.
  • It is possible to apply for a Nationality Status letter from the Home Office Form and Guide NS

Contacting British diplomatic missions

  • Most British missions have "outsourced" their passport helplines to a "service partner".
  • Calls to these "service partners" are at premium rates.
  • As with many helplines, there are no independent reports testing of the quality of advice given, especially in complex cases.
  • The best way to contact the passport section of a British mission is by email or fax, if you have a query that is genuinely not answered by the documentation or the website of the relevant mission.

Denial of passport facilities

  • Most Consulate staff do want to help British citizens.
  • If they cannot issue a full passport, they can often issue an emergency (limited validity) passport to allow travel to the United Kingdom, where you can then obtain a full passport from the United Kingdom Passport Service.

Making a complaint

  • You have the right to make a complaint if you or your children are unreasonably denied passport facilities.
    • This can either be due to an unreasonable demand for a document that is unobtainable or an incorrect interpretation of British nationality law.
  • Most British missions publish a complaints procedure on their website.
    • The normal course of action should be to complain to the Consul in charge of issuing passports at that location.
    • The Foreign Office does not publish any escalation procedure.
    • Hence if complaining to the Consul does not elicit an acceptable response, you should contact your Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom and ask that the complaint be referred to the Foreign Office Minister.
  • Do not complain to the Consul about the costs of passports, service standards (provided these standards have been met) or British nationality law. These should be directed directly to you Member of Parliament.

Contacting your Member of Parliament

  • British citizens who leave the United Kingdom retain the right to vote for 15 years.
  • If you have retained your overseas electoral registration, contacting your Member of Parliament should be straightforward.
  • Details of your MP can be obtained from the Parliament website.

Alternative to a British passport

An alternative option to a British passport is a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode (ROA) placed inside a foreign passport.

  • ROA costs as much, if not more, than a British passport and is only valid for 5 years.
  • The stamp gives no benefits in other European Economic Area nations.
  • Some people may choose to have an ROA stamp if the country of their other nationality tolerates dual citizenship in some circumstances, but bans the possession of a foreign passport (for example, Malaysia).
  • However, the application process for an ROA stamp is more transparent and the rules more specific. Entry Clearance Guide - Right of Abode
  • Since the end of 2006, it is no longer possible to have an ROA stamp as well as a British passport.