© Crown copyright 2013
This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned.
This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-are-acceptable-travel-documents-for-entry-clearance-ecb08/ecb08-what-are-acceptable-travel-documents-for-entry-clearance
1. ECB8.1 Why a passport or travel document is needed and what constitutes one
The Immigration Rules state that persons seeking entry to the UK are to be refused entry by an Immigration Officer if they fail to produce a valid national passport or other document satisfactorily establishing their identity and nationality (Rules paragraph 320(3)).
This applies equally to applicants requesting entry clearance from an ECO.
A bona fide passport or travel document should:
- contain the photograph, name and date of birth of the holder;
- state the holder’s nationality (or disclaimer if the holder is stateless or of undetermined nationality);
- be valid for travel to the UK.
2. ECB8.2 States not recognised by HMG
HMG does not recognise certain ‘states’ and does not recognise the passports or travel documents issued by them. Entry clearances should not therefore be put in such passports or travel documents.
However, this does not mean that an entry clearance may not be issued. If the requirements of the Immigration Rules are met, an entry clearance must be issued on an EU Uniform Format Form (EU UFF).
The UK does not recognise:
- ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (‘TRNC’)
- Yemen (Royalist authorities)**.
*Visas may be placed in ordinary Taiwanese passports. But the EU Uniform Format Form should be used when a diplomatic or official Taiwanese passport is presented.
**Passports which may be in circulation although they are being phased out.
3. ECB8.3 Passports not recognised by HMG
Although HMG does not recognise certain passports as evidence of identity and nationality, the Secretary of State does not have the power to tell ECOs which passports to accept. If ECOs are unsure whether a passport is acceptable and can be endorsed then they should contact their regional operations manager.
4. ECB8.4 What to do when a government issues a new form of travel document
When a new type of passport / travel document is first issued by a foreign or Commonwealth government, or an International Organisation decides to issue a travel document, the Post should as a priority:
- request four specimens.
These examples are required so that the passport / travel document can be formally recognised and notifies the Home Office.
5. ECB8.5 Passports and travel documents in current use
Listed below are passports and travel documents in current use. Although most are acceptable for entry to the UK, some are not.
- Collective passports (ECB8.6)
- Emergency travel documents (ECB8.7)
- European Union Laissez-Passer (ECB8.8)
- EU Uniform Format Form (replaced Declaration of Identity form)(ECB8.9)
- Hong Kong travel documents (ECB8.10)
- Identity cards of EEA Nationals and Swiss Nationals (ECB8.11)
- National passports (ECB8.12)
- Refugee or stateless persons travel documents (ECB8.13)
- Travel documents issued by International Organisations (ECB8.14)
- Travel documents issued by the United Nations (ECB8.15)
- Unofficial and self-styled ‘passports’ (ECB8.16) back to top
6. ECB8.6 Collective passports
6.1 ECB8.6.1 As with national passports, these travel documents are issued by governments. Each collective passport must:
- be issued by an authority competent to issue passports;
- be in a form recognised by the Home Office;
- give the date and place of issue and the name of the issuing authority;
- certify that all persons included in it are nationals of the country in which it is issued, excepting Italian collective passports (which are not certified in this manner because they never include persons not of Italian nationality) or certain stateless persons (see section below);
- describe the party (for example, a sports team, a school class);
- state the country or countries of destination;
- give the surnames (in alphabetical order), first names, date and place of birth and place of residence for each member of the party;
- have adequate space for the Immigration Officer’s stamps.
6.2 ECB8.6.2 Amendments or additions to collective passports
Any amendments or additions to a collective passport may be made only by the issuing authority. Immigration Officers will accept the validity of documents upon which deletions have been made provided each alteration is separately authenticated by an ECO.
6.3 ECB8.6.3 A collective passport may be used for travel to the UK provided:
- All those included in it are to engage in a common enterprise, and full arrangements are made for the visit before arrival.
- The visit is of a temporary nature and will not exceed six months.
- The party enter, remain and leave the UK together.
The number of people included on one collective passport must not be less than five or more than fifty.
6.4 ECB8.6.4 Additional requirements for collective passports:
- Each member of the party who is aged 16 years or over must be in possession of an official identity document bearing a photograph (for example, an identity card, driving licence, certificate of nationality for travel purposes or a passport which has expired not more than three years previously).
- Alternatively, a certified photograph of each such member may be affixed to the collective passport opposite his / her name. The photographs may be certified by the organising body, or by the leader of the party. After they have been affixed to the passport, each must be stamped by the ECO in such a way that the photograph cannot be removed and replaced by another.
- It is helpful, but not a requirement, that young persons under the age of 16 years carry with them some kind of official identity document.
6.5 ECB8.6.5 Requirements for the leader of the party travelling on a collective passport:
- Be at least 21 years of age and remain in company with the party.
- Be responsible for complying with the immigration requirements.
- Ensure that the members of the party remain together.
- Possess an individual passport.
6.6 ECB8.6.6 Authentication of collective passports by ECOs
In addition to being endorsed with entry clearances, when necessary, collective passports must be authenticated by an ECO or Consular Officer.
No authentication is required for collective passports issued by the following countries:
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey
6.7 ECB8.6.7 Collective passports and Stateless persons
Stateless persons under the age of 21 whose residence in the countries listed above is authorised by the national authorities concerned, may be included on collective passports issued by those national authorities provided:
- The names of stateless persons must be listed separately from nationals, and their status clearly shown.
- The collective passport must bear a clear indication at the top that the party includes stateless persons.
- Each stateless person aged 16 or over carries an identity card bearing a photograph.
The inclusion of stateless young persons on a collective passport commits the issuing government to their readmission without time limit to its own territory, even when the stateless person does not return with the party.
6.8 ECB8.6.8 Advice if a person on a collective passport must unavoidably remain longer in the United Kingdom
Any member of the party who is unable for some unavoidable reason, e.g. illness or accident, to leave the UK with the main party must obtain an individual passport from his/her Consul in the UK. The passport must be sent with a letter giving the reason for prolonging the stay to:
Public Enquiry Office UK Border Agency Lunar House 40 Wellesley Road Croydon CR9 2BY
In addition, when the party leaves the country, the leader should inform an Immigration Officer at the port of entry if any members of the party have been left behind.
6.9 ECB8.6.9 Entry clearance fees for collective passports
Unless entry clearance is to be gratis (see ECB06 Entry clearance fees for guidance) each person travelling should be charged a fee.
7. ECB8.7 Emergency travel documents
Emergency travel documents are issued by governments. They are usually for specific journeys. The ECO should normally consider them satisfactory documents for travel to the United Kingdom
8. ECB8.8 European Union Laissez-Passer
The European Union (EU) provides certain officials and their dependents with a laissez-passer. This laissez-passer is accepted in lieu of a passport or national identity card for entry to any of the EU member states.
9. ECB8.9 EU Uniform Format Form (UFF)
9.1 What is a UFF?
The UFF is a document on which a visa can be placed when a travel document is not recognised as a valid travel document by HMG. It is used by all EU Member States.
It replaced the previous Declaration of Identity form (GV3). Unlike the previous GV3 form, the UFF does not confer nationality and neither does it confirm identity.
A UFF is not a statutory declaration in the true sense and may be witnessed by an officer responsible for signing entry clearances.
The ECO should not issue a UFF unless they intend to endorse a visa on it.
9.2 Is a referral to the regional operations manager mandatory?
No, ECOs may issue a UFF after authorisation from an ECM in straightforward cases, that is, first time family reunion or settlement cases or cases where and applicant does not have an acceptable travel document.
*(family reunion guidance)SET10 - Family reunion.
In all other circumstances authority to issue UFFs must be obtained from the regional operations manager. Each region should set up local processes for referring UFF’s for authorisation.
What is the procedure for issuing UFFs authorised by an ECM?
See ECB9.3 (c)
9.3 What period of leave should be granted?
If the applicant is applying under the Family Reunion policy and the sponsor has 5 years Limited Leave (LTR) the applicant should be granted LTE in line with the sponsor’s leave, expiring on the same date. If the sponsor has Indefinite Leave (ILR) the applicant should be granted ILE for 12 months.
The ECO should add the initial and surname of their sponsor in the ‘Add endorsement’ field. If the applicant is applying under a category other than Family Reunion, the visa should be valid for the duration of the category under which they have applied, for example, Settlement 27 months.
The ECO should add the initial and surname of their sponsor in the ‘Add endorsement’ field.
It is important to ensure that a UFF is issued in conjunction with a travel document, wherever possible. But where the applicant does not hold a travel document, the application should be referred to the regional operations manager. See referral procedure above.
As the UFF is personal to the holder and only one visa may be attached to it, the ECO must issue a separate form and vignette for each applicant.
Where appropriate, the ECO may issue a multiple-entry entry clearance on a UFF.
9.4 What is the fee?
The standard entry clearance fees are payable, except for categories which are exempt (see Exempt (EXM))
There is no fee for the UFF itself.
You can download a (specimen EU Uniform Format Form (UFF) on this guidance page.
For information on the issuing / processing of EU UFF see ECB9.3.
10. ECB8.10 Hong Kong travel documents
10.1 ECB8.10.1 Since July 1998 there have been four different types of Hong Kong travel documents:
- the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport; (ECB8.10.2)
- the British National (Overseas) passport; (ECB8.10.3)
- the British Overseas Citizen passport; (ECB8.10.4)
- the Hong Kong Document of Identity for Visa Purposes. (ECB8.10.5)
10.2 ECB8.10.2 The HKSAR passport is issued by the HKSAR Immigration Department on the authority of the Chinese Government. It is issued to all Chinese nationals who have right of abode in the HKSAR and hold the Hong Kong permanent identity card. BN(O) passport-holders who are eligible for the HKSAR passport can hold both passports simultaneously.
10.3 ECB8.10.3 The BN(O) passport can be held and used as a travel document by Hong Kong residents. Some 3.4 million Hong Kong people (mostly Chinese nationals) are BN(O)s - a status held for life. BN(O) passports have a ten-year validity and are renewable at the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong, at UK passport offices and at other British Consular Posts overseas. BN(O)s have visa-free access for visits to the UK.
10.4 ECB8.10.4 The British Overseas Citizen passport is held by those people, who were formerly British Dependent Territories citizens and who failed to register for a BN(O) passport before 1 July 1997 and who would otherwise be stateless.
10.5 ECB8.10.5 Hong Kong Documents of Identity for Visa Purposes are issued to residents of Hong Kong, who do not meet the residence criteria to qualify for the right of abode and thus the HKSAR passport and / or cannot obtain a national passport.
11. ECB8.11 Identity cards of EEA and Swiss nationals
EEA and Swiss nationals may use identity cards as travel documents for travel to the United Kingdom.
12. ECB8.12 National passports
National passports are issued by governments to persons who are accepted as their citizens.
Unless there are particular problems with a national passport (in which case Posts will be informed of special handling procedures to be taken) ECOs should treat all such passports as bona fide for travel to the UK.
There are special arrangements for handling entry clearance applications from persons who hold national passports of countries not recognised by HMG [see ECB 8.2 above].
13. ECB8.13 Refugee or Stateless Persons’ travel documents
13.1 ECB8.13.1 Refugee or Stateless Persons travel documents
Most governments issue travel documents to stateless persons, refugees or others living within their borders who are not eligible for national passports.
The Home Office issues documents as outlined above. These documents are used for entering and exiting th UK.
These documents cannot be renewed. When they expire, the holder must apply for a new document and this can only be done in the UK
13.2 ECB8.13.2 1951 Convention Travel Documents
1951 Convention Travel Documents (CTDs) are issued to refugees by states who are party to the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. All holders of 1951 CTDs, except those issued by the UK, are required to give a record of their fingerprints on arrival in the UK. Visas endorsed on 1951 CTDs do not confer leave to enter. Instead they are valid for presentation at a UK port for six months, where the holder can seek leave to enter.
Visas endorsed on 1951 CTDs should be:
- restricted to six months validity, this includes EEA Family Permits; but
- multiple-entry visit visas can be valid for up to two years.
13.3 ECB8.13.3 Refugees or Stateless Persons entering for longer than 6 months
Those entering for longer than six months, such as students, PBS holders and others, will need to seek an extension from the UK Border Agency after their arrival in the United Kingdom.
People granted settlement and family reunion (who would normally be granted indefinite leave to enter on the visa) are limited to six month visas and will need to seek further leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain from the UK Border Agency.
13.4 ECB8.13.4 Refugees or Stateless Persons: limited validity, biometrics and fees
The ECO should make applicants aware of their need to seek leave to enter on arrival in the UK and the limited validity of their visas. They should also advise applicants that failure to comply with the requirement to give fingerprints could result in refusal of leave to enter (see ECB1.3 Biometrics in the legislation).
When assessing applications from 1951 CTD holders, the ECO needs to consider the full duration of the intended stay. Fee charges (usual charges apply) and appeal rights will be in line with the proposed length of stay.
13.5 ECB8.13.5 Travel documents issued by the United Kingdom to refugee or stateless persons
*Refugee Travel Document (1951 Convention)
- The 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which came into force in the UK on 9 June 1954, provides in Article 28 for the issue of travel documents to refugees lawfully staying in the territories of contracting governments. The Convention defines a refugee as a person who, “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.
The current version of the refugee travel document is in book form, has a dark blue cover and contains 32 pages. There are two gold lines across the top left hand corner of the front cover, each 5mm wide and 3mm apart, and the title ‘Travel Document (Convention of 28 July 1951)’, the official crest and ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.
Special attention is drawn to the following points about the refugee travel document issued in the UK:
- It is normally made valid for travel to all countries except the country of origin and/or from which the holder sought asylum.
- The period of validity varies with the holder’s immigration position in the UK. (It may be as short as 6 months for a holder on time conditions or as long as 10 years for one who has achieved settlement). The holder’s immigration position will be apparent from the Home Office endorsements on the visa pages.
- While valid, the holder can use the document to return to the UK without requiring a visa. However, this does not guarantee entry and the holder will still need to satisfy the Immigration Officer on entry to the UK.
The holder of an expired refugee travel document who has taken up permanent residence in another country should be advised to apply to the authorities of that country for a replacement travel document (note 2 on inside front cover of document). Similarly, if he / she has obtained a national passport, by re-availing himself / herself of the protection of the country from which he / she sought refuge or by acquiring another nationality, he/she may not be issued with further CTD’s. In either case it should be explained that withdrawal of the UK travel documentation would not in itself affect the outcome of any application he / she may make for a visa to re-enter the UK.
It is not possible to re-new Home Office travel documents outside the UK. Those wishing to return to the UK and who are not in possession of their travel document (lost / stolen) should, once satisfied that they meet the criteria after following the guidance in ECB8.9 and notifying travel document section, be considered for a EU UFF (See ECB8.9 above).
13.6 ECB8.13.6 Travel documents issued by the United Kingdom to stateless persons
- Stateless Persons’ Travel Documents (1954 Convention)
Under the terms of the 1954 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which came into force on 6 June 1960, the Home Office issues a Stateless Person’s Travel Document similar to the refugee document but having a red cover and valid for travel to all countries. The rules regarding periods of validity, return to the UK without a visa and extensions abroad are the same as for the refugee document.
13.7 ECB8.13.7 Certificates of Travel issued by the United Kingdom
*Note: Issued since 17 March 2008
- This travel document, which is in the form of a 32-page booklet with a black cover, is issued to resident foreign nationals who need to travel abroad and can show that they have formally and unreasonably been refused passport facilities by their own national authorities. It is normally made valid for travel to all countries except the holder’s country of origin and/or the country from which asylum was sought.
Its validity, upon issue in the UK, varies with the holder’s immigration position. For a holder who is settled, it would normally be made valid for up to 5 years; for one on time conditions it would normally be in line with that leave. Where these documents have been issued exceptionally, they are usually valid for 12 months.
The holder’s immigration position should be apparent from the Home Office endorsements on the visa pages.
Prior to 17 March 2008, Certificates of Identity were issued instead of Certificates of Travel. The criteria for issue were the same as for the Certificates of Travel and these documents had a brown cover**. **There will no longer be any valid Certificates of Travel in circulation.
13.8 ECB8.13.8 Document of Identity (1S 137) issued by the United Kingdom
The 1S 137 is a single journey document issued solely to facilitate repatriation from the UK. It is not a renewable document.
13.9 ECB8.13.9 Home Office documents issued to stateless seamen
It is very rare to see one of these.
Stateless seamen resident in the UK who hold Discharge Books (Continuous Certificates of Discharge) issued by the Home Office and which are endorsed as valid for return to the UK without a visa may be issued with a Stateless Persons Document (SPD) if he fulfils all the following conditions:
- When last given leave to enter the UK he was given indefinite leave to enter.
- He has remained continuously in sea employment since last leaving the UK.
- He has not been granted permission to take up residence in any other country.
- He is not on any Home Office data bases or otherwise known to be undesirable.
- He has not been in sea employment outside the UK for a period longer than four years.
Any cases of this nature should be referred to the Travel Document Section (TDS) in Croydon.
13.10 ECB8.13.10 How to deal with the loss of Home Office travel documents
Persons who claim to have lost their Home Office issued Travel Document should be treated as applicants for visas to be issued on a UFF (see ECB9.3(b)). For all lost travel document applications the ECO must email the Travel Documents Section giving the following details about the applicant:
- Any Home Office reference number
- The number of the document
- Surname and all forenames
- Date and place of birth
- Date of last embarkation from the UK
- Circumstances of stay abroad
- Ties with the UK
- The applicant’s address in the UK
- The circumstances of the loss of the document and details of the police report
- Any available document or information which would help identification * Authorisation should only be sought from the regional operations manager once the travel documents section have confirmed that they have taken the appropriate action.
13.11 ECB8.13.11 Can Home Office travel documents be issued abroad?
On no account should applications for Home Office travel documents be accepted from persons outside the UK, unless instructions to do so have been received from the Home Office. Only in very exceptional cases, by prior arrangement, will the Home Office issue a replacement document to such a person overseas and where this is agreed, the new document will be sent to the nearest Entry Clearance Issuing Post.
14. ECB8.14 Travel documents issued by International Organisations
The African Development Bank (ADB), the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the International Red Cross issue travel documents.
- Only the Red Cross document may be considered acceptable for travel to the UK.
15. ECB8.15 Travel documents issued by the United Nations
15.1 ECB8.15.1 There are two types of travel documents issued by the United Nations:
UN Certificate Do not endorse a UN Certificate with an entry clearance. Holders should be asked to obtain a national passport or other travel document.
UN Laissez-passer This allows the holder to travel to the United Kingdom on official business without a national passport or entry clearance. However, when holders travel to the UK for any other reason, they should use their national passports (and visas will be required by visa nationals).
Exceptionally, the following may use UN laissez-passer when not on official business:
- Members of the staff of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and their families, based in London;
- Stateless persons genuinely unable to obtain any other form of travel document (in such cases visas should be attached to the UN laissez-passer).
15.2 ECB8.15.2 Spouses, civil partners and children of holders of UN laissez-passer
The inclusion of the names of spouses, civil partners and children in a UN laissez-passer merely indicates their right to claim immunities and privileges.
Spouses, civil partners and children of holders of UN laissez-passer must carry national passports or other suitable travel documents. If they are visa nationals, they are not exempt from UK visa requirements.
When accompanying the holder of a UN laissez-passer travelling on official business the spouses, civil partners and children may be granted a gratis visa.
16. ECB8.16 Unofficial / self-styled passports
An organisation calling itself ‘The United Nations Office Inc’ issues so-called ‘passports’ which are not acceptable.