Don't Let Your Passport Ruin Your Next Holiday!
The rules have changed
Since Brexit, there’s been a change to passport rules if you’re intending to travel to the EU with a UK passport.
These changes have been in place since 1st January 2021 but as nobody was travelling at that point, it wasn’t widely spoken and more than two years on, this rule is still sending many a traveller home from the airport.
What Rules Have Changed For UK Passports?
As we are no longer part of the EU, we are classed as a ‘third nation country’ by the EU and therefore must follow the same rules as everyone else in that group.
Before, we would have been able to travel to the EU up to and on the day that our passport expired.
In addition, if we had more than 10 years on our passport (a regular occurrence in the past when the passport office would add on any leftover months on your previous passport when you renewed).
However, both of these things have now changed.
What Are the New Passport Rules for UK Travellers?
For this, let’s take a look at what the official EU wording is:
“If you are a national from a country outside the EU wishing to visit or travel within the EU, you will need a valid passport and possibly a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the EU and it must have been issued within the last 10 years. This means your travel document must have been issued within the previous 10 years the day you enter the EU on condition that is it valid until the end of your stay plus an additional 3 months.”
In essence, your passport must be:
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
- issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
The latter is the bit that is catching most people out as some older passports are valid for more than 10 years, and the EU does not recognise these extra months anymore.
Do I Need to Meet Both of Those Conditions Simultaneously?
It took some time to get confirmation on this but it turns out that the two conditions above are in fact independent of each other.
To explain the relevance, let me use an example.
A woman is travelling to an EU country on 29th August 2023 for 3 nights. Her passport was issued on 1st November 2013. It expires 15th March 2024.
Can she travel under the new rules?
Well let’s go through this.
Is her passport valid for at least 3 months after the date she intends to leave the EU?
She’s returning on 1st September 2023 so yes.
Was it issued within the previous 10 years on the date she entered the EU?
She is arriving in the EU on 29th August 20203, so that’s also a yes.
The reason this is significant is because if both of the conditions were used simultaneously, you would come to the conclusion that the last possible travel would be 1st Aug 2023 – 3 months prior to the date where her passport would reach 10 years.
What if the Airline Staff Refuse My Passport Even Though It’s Valid?
Sadly, there have been instances where travellers have been wrongly turned away due to an incorrect reading of the rules.
If you run into any issues, my best advice is for you to search the country you’re travelling to followed by the letters ‘FCDO’ e.g. ‘Greece FCDO‘ which will bring up the UK’s Foreign Office website. Click on ‘Entry Requirements‘ and scroll to ‘Passport Validity Requirements’ which details the rules clearly.
Otherwise, please feel free to use this reasoning to explain why your travel is fine, and you can also quote Simon Calder at The Independent who has done extensive work on this too.
Why Does My Passport Have Over 10 Years on It?
In the past, if you renewed your passport before it expired, the Passport Office would – rather kindly – ‘roll over’ the months onto your next passport.
After leaving the EU, the UK government finally realised that this was going to confuse matters and stopped doing this in 2018. However, it does mean there are plenty of passports still out there that have more than 10 years on them.
Didn’t the UK Home Office Say I Need To Have 6 Months Left on My Passport?
They did say this in the past but fortunately, they have updated their advice to reflect the accurate EU rules.
“We recommend that on the day you travel you have at least 6 months left on your passport. This allows for:
- travelling in Europe for up to 3 months (you don’t normally need a visa for the first 90 days in every 180 days of travel)
- the requirement from most European countries to have at least 3 months left on your passport on the day after you leave”
The reason they recommend 6 months is because the longest journey we can now take in the EU is 90 days, and therefore 6 months covers all possible trips – but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you travelling for a shorter trip as long as you still have that magical 3 months left on the day you come home.
These rules do not apply to travel to Ireland. You can continue to use your passport as long as it’s valid for the length of your stay.
What Are the Passport Rules for Non-EU Countries in the Schengen Zone?
The same rules also apply for non-EU countries in the Schengen area, which are: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.
What About the Extra Months on My Child’s Passport?
If your child was 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, it will be valid for 5 years as standard. Therefore, you do not need to worry about whether any extra months will be valid on a 5 year passport as they will always meet the 10 years requirement. They do, of course, still need to have at least 3 months on them after the date you intend to leave the EU.