Once, when flying from India to the UK, I left my passport on the plane's seat-back pocket and forgot that I left it there until I reached the passport control desks. Fortunately in this case, I rushed back to the gate where the plane had parked and since the plane was being cleaned there, I was able to request the staff to fetch my passport for me from my seat.

My question is: what happens if you lose your passport during transit at an airport, or before you reach the passport control desk at your destination country? I know that in any other situation, I would be able to contact my country's embassy to get an emergency travel document (ETD). What happens in this other case - can you get an ETD at the airport, or will you be deported back to the country you flew from? And in case of a deportation, are you sent back to your home country or the origin country of your previous flight? I want to know if there are any international laws covering this scenario.

(This is all under the assumption that you have the relevant visas or travel authorisation for your destination, but they're obviously in your passport.)

  • Great question, I have been wondering about this myself. Since you have entered the plane, there is some record of your identity. I guess with a copy of your passport somewhere in your luggage, things might not look so grim.
    – user141
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 18:45
  • I hardly ever carry a copy of my documents, although I do have scans stored on Dropbox. I'm not sure whether I'd be given permission to even fetch this online, or whether it is enough to get me entry / ETD. This could be part of the answer! Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 19:04
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    There is a documented procedure for what you can do in such a situation here - tinyurl.com/56czx
    – Doc
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 21:08
  • Actually I was in a same situation in another country where I lost my passport right before the passport control. They did not allow me to enter the country with a copy of my American passport or an ID so I was sent back with the next flight. I already had the return ticket and they just changed the date on it. It was a very bad experience!!
    – user7647
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 2:35
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    @phoog That's a typo, I don't need a French grammar course, thank you.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


As Andra said in his answer, there is no general rule here. Anyway out of personal experiences as an airline staff for years I have seen this pattern:

Arriving at a foreign country, departing from home:

Most likely you will be deported back in the same airplane. There are cases where authorities will allow you if you have a valid ID or you have managed to get an emergency travel document from your embassy, but that's if you are lucky enough or your embassy is really helpful.

Arriving home, departing from a foreign country:

You will be able to enter.

Arriving at a foreign country, departing from a foreign country:

This is a problem, most likely you will not be allowed to enter, and if you are to be deported in the same plane then you will face the same problem when you arrive back! If you can afford to buy a ticket to your home country on the spot, you will be put on the first plane to your home.

Anyway, arranging an emergency travel document will solve your problem, but again this is not as easy as it seems always.

The same thing goes for the transit passengers as long as they will pass the passport control and eventually they will reach a destination without a passport and face the same.

In any of the above cases you will definitely have lots of questions from the immigration/customs. Finally, Always remember, there are exceptions to every rule.

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    re:"arriving home" - this has a much higher chance of working if "home" is where you have citizenship (which also means that people with no citizenship should avoid losing their travel documents).
    – Jonas
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 16:44
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    I actually meant with home as the country of your nationality. And if you are stateless I agree with you totally.. Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 16:50
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    If the airport is a bit broken, you can trigger this kind of problem on a domestic - domestic flight connection! See this flytalk thread for the details for a few UK airports...
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 11:49
  • As someone in the buisness you should know an airplane doesn't go back and forth to the same destination but changes them all the times. So your assumption that you will go back to the same plane is wrong.
    – ronenfe
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 23:39
  • @ronen you are wrong, the plane is usually the same unless it's a base for the airline. "As someone in the business" my ass. Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 3:25

At Schiphol airport there is a desk for emergency documents. Although it seems to be specifically for Dutch citizens, at least there is an infrastructure to deal with these circumstances. I am surprised that they even provide emergency documents if you still have to leave. So you seem to be able to even start a trip with an emergency document. Being able to proof your identity helps, so I guess having a copy of your stolen passport in dropbox, or email, could make a difference.

I am afraid that there is not a general answer to this question, but that multiple answers apply depending on your personal situation (nationality, destination, visa, working permits, etc), but I guess that most airports will have similar services like the military police at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.

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    I believe many international hubs have a police office, where local residents may get an emergency passport. Here in Denmark, there was an article about people who didn't bother getting a real passport, because they could simply get an emergency one at the airport. Kind of a risky plan, if you ask me.
    – Nix
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 19:03

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