Travel Document Project

Last updated 28 August 2013 

Latest information added to this site

Hundreds of people languish in immigration detention with no immediate prospect of removal because they have no travel documents. It can be very difficult for them to to prove their identity and nationality, and get travel documents for a variety of reasons. The human cost of of delays in obtaining travel documents is great, especially to those held in immigration detention.

There is an urgent need to improve those aspects of the travel documentation process that are managed by UKBA but also in terms of the human cost to people, especially those held in immigration detention.

The UK Border Agency has recently disclosed their internal guidance on evidentiary requirements and timescales for obtaining travel documents listed by country. BID welcomes this step towards transparency in the process of re-documenting detainees and others facing removal from the UK, which makes it easier for detainees and their representatives to assess whether or not the length of detention or purpose of detention has become unlawful.

However BID still has concerns about UKBA’s approach to the re-documentation process, which may contribute to delays in case progression and result in extended and de facto indefinite detention in some cases. 

The Travel Document Project welcomes any new information that detainees and legal representatives can share which might be of wider interest, and any suggested amendments and additions to this site. Your experiences, evidence and general information will be what will keep this website relevant and a useful tool to others. Please send all such information to .

Detainees seeking advice please contact BID's advice line on 020 7247 3590 between 10am-12pm, Monday to Thursday.

We are grateful to Garden Court Chambers, Doughty Street Chambers, and an anonymous donor for their financial support and expertise.

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The Project provides tools to help people apply for travel documents from their own national authorities, including standard letters, and contact details. There is advice on how such evidence can be used for the purpose of engaging the UK Border Agency with an individual’s efforts to cooperate with the documentation process, thereby also serving as evidence that they are unlikely to abscond if released.

We have also included information from the UK Border Agency, including guidance to its caseworkers on the average timescales, where this is known, for obtaining a passport or an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) from the national authorities of different countries. Such information is essential in understanding whether or not removal of a person is imminent, a significant factor that needs to be take into account by decision-makers in deciding whether or not to grant a person release from detention or bail.

Legal representatives will also find information that is essential to understanding in what circumstances difficulties in obtaining a travel document for a detained person who is facing removal, may render continued detention unlawful. The documents described above that relate to timescales for obtaining documents, are supplemented with information arising from BID’s casework, reference to UK Border Agency policies, international instruments and examples of case law arising from the higher courts where documentation has been central to the argument that continued detention is unlawful.

This feature section will be updated at regular intervals.

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