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How to ..... ?

This blog is intended to be helpful to English-speaking foreign residents in Spain by explaining "How to ... " do certain things. "The Crazy Guy" has lived in Spain full time since 2008. A fluent Spanish-speaker he reckons he knows his way round the bureaucracy, the indifference and sometimes downright rudeness of "funcionarios".

How to ... get an UK Emergency Travel Document?
Thursday, November 18, 2021 @ 4:09 PM

Imagine the scenario: you are British and are due to travel shortly to another country, but have lost your passport, had it stolen or it has expired. What to do? This happened recently to "The Crazy Guy". Here he describes how he managed to still travel as planned…

Not having your passport for whatever reason is less of a problem for many other nationalities, as they have ID cards that are recognised for travel across borders, at least within the European Union.

If you are British, however, you don’t have this luxury a) because we don’t have ID cards (why not, by the way?) and b) because the UK is no longer a member state of the EU.

My UK passport expired on 7 October and I had a flight to Germany booked for 28 October. Although I had applied for a new passport, with just 5 days to go to departure, it had not arrived.

My only chance was to apply for an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) which would permit me to make one return journey.

I went online to the UK government website ( to discover that I only needed to allow two working days to acquire the said document. It was Saturday and I was due to fly on the following Thursday. Three working days! Blimey! Talk about cutting it fine!

I filled in the online form and uploaded my passport photo. This is all very straightforward, I thought, and then I got a message back informing me that my photo was not acceptable. What?! It was the same professionally taken one I had submitted for my full passport and THAT had been OK!

I decided to start the application again from scratch, so I completed the online form for a second time and re-submitted my photo.

After a tense wait, I got the response from the website: photo accepted. Phew!

I completed the process, paid the exorbitant fee of £100 (the ETD was only for one journey, after all!) and I was able to relax for the rest of the weekend.

Come Monday morning I rang the British Consulate in Malaga to check on progress. After navigating a series of menus I finally got to speak to a human being rather than a machine.

I was told my application had been approved and that I had been sent an email to that effect. I said that I had received no such email. The nice lady disappeared for five minutes while I got to listen to some MOR muzak.

Back on the line the nice lady apologised – they’d sent the email to someone else! Good job I rang then!

I arranged to collect my ETD on Wednesday morning.

At the Consulate in Malaga on said morning security was expecting me. I was on their list.

Once in the Consular offices another nice lady asked me about my upcoming travel plans before handing me my ETD, a rather surprising sky blue colour. I was good to go.

I have to say, apart from the kerfuffle over the “non-email” and the initial non-acceptance of my photo, the whole process was remarkably speedy and efficient. Personnel on the phone and face-to-face were extremely pleasant and courteous.

Postscript: My journey to Germany and back is now complete.

Interestingly, on the flight out, Ryanair would have accepted my TIE as ID at the gate. The border police at Karlsruhe Baden-Baden airport also.

On the return journey my TIE was accepted by ground staff at KB-B airport to board my flight and at Malaga airport there were no checks at all.

Could have saved myself £100, but I didn’t know that!

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