How to travel to the US without a passport as a US citizen.
November 13, 2008 2:26 PM   Subscribe

How do I travel from the UK to the US as a US citizen if I don't have a passport or a valid driver's license?

My passport is currently somewhere in the bowels of the UK Border Agency as they process my visa application. It will probably come back to me before I have to go back to the US on December 8, but then again it could take two more months. I have no way of knowing. I'll either have to cancel my flight home or my visa application if it doesn't show up -- either way I'm out about $800. Is there any way I can apply for a provisional or temporary travel document at the US embassy that will let me travel to the US?
posted by nímwunnan to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Birth certificate? Or an expired passport? The latter will help get in the US, but what about getting back to the UK? I would definitely contact the Embassy...
posted by bluefrog at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2008

Call the U.S. embassy. I imagine the procedure is the same as for a lost or stolen passport and documents.

(Also, do you have a scanned copy of it? I was once able to enter the U.S. with a printout of my scanned Permanent Resident Card.) On a side note, scanning all your documents/credit cards/etc. and archiving them in a Gmail account accessible from anywhere is a great, great decision.
posted by halogen at 3:09 PM on November 13, 2008

You may want to check on a question like this at the UK-Yankee forum: I am not sure about this, but it was my understanding that you can't leave the UK while your application is under consideration, otherwise it is considered withdrawn. There may be more nuances to it, though.
posted by five_dollars at 5:36 PM on November 13, 2008

The UK visas I 've held have had the option to pay a couple of hundred pounds extra for 48-hour turnaround - if it gets to the week before you're due to leave and there's still no sign of your passport phone them and ask to pay the extra, but the longest they've kept my documents (for an application from within the UK) is three weeks. Unless their website posts extraordinarily long waiting times, or paying for expedition is absolutely out of the question, I wouldn't fret it.
posted by goo at 7:19 PM on November 13, 2008

Your airline is likely not to let you past the check-in counter if they discover that you don't have a valid passport. They have to pay hefty fines for allowing inadmissible people to fly to the U.S. Granted, you're not inadmissible, and you can't be deported once you get here, but you may have a tough time convincing your airline of that.
posted by oaf at 8:03 PM on November 13, 2008

The US embassy can give you an emergency passport, good for a year, i think. This may invalidate your original passport, which would mean you need to carry two passports (a new passport plus the original passport with the new UK visa) when you travel outside the UK.
posted by clark at 3:57 AM on November 14, 2008

Sorry but this is a complicated question. There are ways, as described above, of getting to the US with the help of your embassy but the bigger question is how you plan to get back into the UK?

Are you working in the UK now. That means you can't just re-enter with your US passport as if you're a tourist. To work or study in the UK you need to have the Visa that allowed you to do that in the first place. Is that with the UK Border Agency too? You might be able to sneak back in but this is the type of thing that may cause adverse consequences later on.

I'm an American in the UK and have asked a question very similar to yours already.

My advice to you is to contact the UK Border Agency, and explain your situation. I do know that you can request your passport returned immediately in the middle of the visa process. This makes sense because people often have emergencies. But that action pauses your visa application process. And you'll have to send them your passport again when you return from your trip. Whether thats a good solution for you depends, of course, on what exactly your status is here in the UK.
posted by vacapinta at 4:25 AM on November 14, 2008

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I can't ask for my passport back without invalidating my visa application, and I may not be able to apply for it again afterwards if I do that. Since posting this I've learned:

* there is a chance I can get an emergency passport if I need it

* there's no expidition on this type of Visa

I'm glad to hear that people have had speedy turnarounds for their applications. I'm going to check out the other forum that five_dollars suggested.
posted by nímwunnan at 6:34 AM on November 14, 2008

I was in the same position a couple years ago. The Home Office had my US passport for a lot longer than they said they would to process my leave to remain renewal (I think it was) and I had a wedding to attend in the US. The US embassy in London can indeed issue an emergency passport without much fuss. It will not invalidate your original passport. It will be valid for six months or one year depending on the mood of the person at the embassy who processes it. I highly recommend that you get on their website pronto and schedule the first available appointment as they can sometimes be hard to come by. Also, bring along every piece of identifying information you have at your disposal...

The whole process only took a couple hours. With the new US-sized passport picture photo booth at the embassy it should be even quicker now since you won't have to trudge over to that dingy pharmacy nearby to have them taken.

Of course two days before I left for said wedding I received my passport back from the Home Office...

Be prepared for a bit of a hassle when you come back into the UK. Depending on the type of visa / work permit you have, they can be a little stroppy about letting you back in on a different passport but if you explain the situation, they'll get it. The point of all this: get registered for the iris scan dealybob. It will make your life a lot easier, especially if you travel in and out of the UK often.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 11:48 AM on November 14, 2008

hey, thanks lazywhinerkid! According to the lady at the London embassy I spoke to today, I should be able to get it done in Edinburgh (I'm in Glasgow), but only on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, this being Scotland and all. Very glad to hear that someone had success getting an emergency passport without screwing everythng up.
posted by nímwunnan at 3:21 PM on November 14, 2008

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