Where will a damaged passport get you?

'My dog ate my passport,' said Ross Taylor. 'Fine,' said a British passport man. 'You're not coming in here,' said Indonesian immigration. Simon Calder sniffs out the sorry tale of a dog-eared document

Bobby is six months old. He has a black coat, white paws and a hyperactively friendly nature. Yet he has already caused the deportation of his owner from Indonesia and cost him more than pounds 1,000 in trying to salvage a holiday.

Ross Taylor, 34, is a barrister who lives in west London. He returned home one day to discover Bobby had rummaged through a document case, finding the passport to his tasteand munching his way through half the coat of arms on the cover. Mr Taylor was due to travel to Bali three days later, and realised he might face trouble leaving the country.

"I dialled Petty France, the passport office I'd always been to, but was told there was a new national number. So I tried it." But the interactive Passport Agency line (0990 210410) turned out to be a telephonic dead- end, with only pre-recorded advice.

Mr Taylor rang immigration at Heathrow and eventually found a helpful human. Had Bobby, he was asked, swallowed the number, photograph or expiry date? If not, the passport was valid. "Those things were present, so I thought 'No worries'. Just in case, I asked him if he had a direct line for the Passport Agency. He gave me a central London number, but it just referred me to the new national number."

Mr Taylor then enlisted the help of the Independent. We could only confirm the same information cul-de-sac and ask how Bobby was feeling on his diplomatic diet. On Friday afternoon, Mr Taylor took his dog-eared (but still officially valid) document to the airport.

Check-in was easy. "The British Airways people thought it was a joke, and the passport woman was more interested in the dog."

As Bobby was settling into the kennels for his winter vacation, Ross Taylor was landing in Jakarta. "The man looked at my passport, and then waved me into a room. The British Airways rep said 'You're going back to Heathrow'. I said 'No - I'm going to Bali'. She said 'Immigration says you must go back'."

Mr Taylor demanded to speak to the chief official, with whom the dialogue took on a Pinteresque quality. "He said 'This is a valid passport'. I said 'Yes'. He said 'It's damaged'. I said 'My dog ate the cover, but it's valid. May I go to Bali?' 'If you get a new passport'.'Where do I get a new passport?' 'London'. 'Can you not issue me a temporary permit, so I can get a new passport from the British Embassy on Monday?' 'No'. That was it."

Mr Taylor was escorted back on to the plane. "I felt like a criminal. Everyone was told 'He's being deported'. For all they knew, I was a drug smuggler."

A fellow traveller suggested Mr Taylor apply for sanctuary in Kuala Lumpur, where a refuelling stop was planned. He could get a new passport in the Malaysian capital on Monday morning and head back to Bali. Mr Taylor seized upon the idea. But at the airport, an action-replay of the Indonesian debacle ensued. Mr Taylor's last resort was chauvinism. "I said I'd only come to Malaysia because I'd heard Malaysians were more sensible and intelligent than the Indonesians."

Suddenly the official's mood changed. "He said 'If you can contact the British consulate, I will give you a temporary permit until Monday.' A circus of telephone calls ensued while the 747 waited in case Mr Taylor was deported from a second country in a single evening. After a flurry of diplomatic wrong numbers, Mr Taylor was finally allowed in.He checked into a hotel, and at dawn on Monday began booking flights and applying for a passport. He was told it would take six days, but the passport was ready in an hour.

British Airways was less than generous to its travel-weary passenger. Having been flown from Indonesia against his will, Mr Taylor had to buy another pounds 400 ticket to Jakarta and back.The airline tried, unsuccessfully, to make him pay again for the Kuala Lumpur-London leg that he had not yet flown.Mr Taylor estimates he is out of pocket by pounds 1,100, which would buy a lot of Pedigree Chum.

Seventy-two hours after leaving London, Mr Taylor was allowed into Indonesia - by the same official who first identified the "problem". Mr Taylor thoroughly enjoyed his holiday - perhaps because he desperately needed it by then. "I'm hoping to return to Bali for a longer period."

Bobby just growls, and looks mischievous. What to do if a dog eats your passport

Becoming a stateless person can get you into a real state. There is no legal requirement to show a passport in order to leave the country, but it makes foreign travel - and re-entering Britain - a lot easier. Until this year, you could apply for a British Visitor's Passport over the counter at post offices. This document would allow you into a number of countries (but not Indonesia). Now, wherever you are heading, there is no choice but to apply for another passport.

The chances of getting one in a hurry will be enhanced if you live in or near London, or can base yourself there. Ideally you should have no commitments for a day or two, either. As Mr Taylor (above) discovered, telephoning the Passport Agency is unlikely to produce a worthwhile result. Instead, call in at the passport office at Petty France in central London, open 8.15am to 4pm, Mon-Fri. Get there by 7am to be well ahead in the queue.

A speedy replacement is much easier if you can produce your old passport (or the remains thereof). If not, you need to get the form and photographs signed by a "respectable" person - so ideally take an MP, vicar or doctor with you. Supporting evidence, such as a non-refundable, fixed-date air ticket, may help if it reinforces the urgency of obtaining a replacement.

If you need a new visa, too, then your problems are only just beginning. While the Australian High Commission can issue visas on the spot, other nations are less agreeable. Even if the visa is a separate document, as in the case of Russia, your luck may still be out. The visa is issued for a specific passport number, and immigration officials at Moscow and St Petersburg are well-versed in picking out offenders. You may be able to argue your way in, with the help of some hard currency, but that supposes you have been allowed on the plane in the first place. Airlines are extremely sensitive about transporting potential deportees, mainly because of the fines imposed for landing undesirable aliens. (If an airline brings to Britain a passenger who has no right of entry, it is fined pounds 2,000.)

Finally, there is always a risk that a foreign dog may eat your passport a few days or hours before you are due to return home. If you have time to organise a replacement, then the nearest British Consulate should be able to issue one (much easier if you have the number and date of issue of the old one).

Should you lose your passport at the airport as you are about to come home, the airline may well make arrangements for you to travel without a passport - if you can convince the staff that you will be allowed into Britain. On the one occasion when I was obliged to travel without identification, when my passport was lifted on the Barcelona Metro, Iberia made all the arrangements for an airline representative to meet the aircraft at Heathrow. I got through a special Immigration channel much more swiftly than if I had been in possession of a passport.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect