After the Home Office’s defective “online passport checker” ruined family holidays by generating absurd “false negatives”, these are the actual rules to help you understand if your child’s passport is valid for travel – and the steps you can take if it is not.
How do I know if my child’s passport is valid for a trip to the EU?
Before Brexit, every British passport was valid in the European Union up to and including the date of expiry. The decision to leave the EU means the UK has decided to become a “third country” for which passport rules are more complicated. But not by much.
The only test for a child’s passport: is it valid for at least three months after the date they intend to leave the European Union country they are visiting?
Therefore for a family holiday in Spain, Portugal, Italy or Greece that ends on 15 August 2021, a passport will need to valid until at least 15 November 2021.
Is that it?
Yes, with one exception. For Ireland it is even easier than the other 26 EU nations. No passport is necessary for travel between Great Britain and the republic (though some air and sea carriers may ask you to have one).
But some families have been told their children’s passports are no longer valid?
In some cases that will be true; during lockdown many passports expired or moved into the three-month zone that makes them invalid for travel to the European Union.
In addition, the Home Office online passport checker was programmed to generate many “false negatives”: telling parents their children’s passports were not valid.
After representations from The Independent, the government has taken down the defective website.
Unfortunately, the Home Office continues to publish misleading information such as: “On the day of travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, your child will need six months left on their passport.” This is not true.
Even though the UK government makes this false claim, it does not justify an airline turning your child away if they meet the actual EU condition (“will it still be valid for three months on the day of return?”).
Any airline that wrongly denies boarding must pay cash compensation to the traveller and make good the effects of the decision.
My child definitely needs a renewed passport urgently.
If you have a few weeks to spare, a straightforward online renewal costs £49.
While HM Passport Office is warning renewals are taking up to 10 weeks, The Independent has seen no evidence of straightforward cases taking anything like so long.
According to the crowd-sourced website PassportWaitingTime.co.uk, the current wait is 14 days.
I need it faster than that.
The only option is to use the One Week Fast Track service – which can be used equally to renew a child passport, to apply for a first child passport or to replace a lost or stolen passport for a child.
It cannot be done online. You must get a paper application form from a Post Office and book a personal interview at a passport office (though the child need not attend).
Centres are located at Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport and Peterborough. Be warned that availability is very patchy. Looking on 27 July, for example, the first appointment for Liverpool is 5 August.
The cost is £122 for a child passport.
What are the rules on passport validity in other countries?
The default is that it should be valid for the intended length of stay (ie no formal minimum). This is the case for destinations such as Australia, Barbados, Gibraltar, Mexico and the US. Some of the exceptions are shown here.
Thirty days from date of exit: South Africa
Three months from date of entry: Morocco
Three months from date of exit: New Zealand
Six months from date of entry: Cape Verde, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Kenya, Turkey.
Some countries also demand that the passport contains blank pages for their stamps.
Bear in mind that many nations worldwide either won’t accept visitors from the UK right now, or are on the “red list” requiring hotel quarantine, or both.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies