Foreign Office finally updates passport advice after passengers to EU wrongly turned away

Exclusive: Wording changed after The Independent revealed passengers were denied boarding by mistake

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 12 May 2022 20:37
Simon Calder: Passports after Brexit

The Foreign Office has finally changed its advice on passport validity for travel to the EU after dozens of airline passengers were wrongly told they couldn’t fly.

Officials have changed the wording of travel advice to bring it into line with the European Commission.

It comes after The Independent reported the plight of passengers wrongly turned away at check-in by airlines because of the discrepancy.

The advice for Spain has been changed to tell UK travellers their passport must be:

  • Issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the “date of issue”)
  • Valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave (check the “expiry date”)

Advice on France, Italy and other EU and wider Schengen destinations is expected to be updated shortly.

Previously the FCDO travel advice for countries in the European Union and Schengen Area included the misleading statement: “For some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the three months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.”

The Independent made its own enquiries and received official confirmation correspondence from the European Commission last November.

On 10 November 2021, the correspondence was passed on to the Foreign Office with a request “to ensure that all communications from the UK government recognise the correct European Union position”.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “FCDO travel advice is kept under constant review to ensure British travellers are aware of the risks and have accurate information to help plan their trip.

“We welcome that the European Commission is now updating its guidance in regards to their rules affecting some UK passports”

The ambivalence in the UK government position has caused widespread confusion and distress.

It has also put extra pressure on HM Passport Office, with many travellers seeking early renewal of passports that were perfectly valid for travel to Europe.

Airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair previously used the Foreign Office travel advice as grounds for denying boarding to passengers who were perfectly entitled to travel. All the major airlines are now aligned with the European Commission rules; Ryanair was the last to fall into line.

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