<p>Date data: a British passport issued for 10 years, nine months</p>

Date data: a British passport issued for 10 years, nine months

When do I need to renew my passport? The post-Brexit rules

Seeing headlines about passports expiring after Brexit? Here are the rules as stated by the European Union, not the UK government

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Sunday 14 November 2021 09:35
Comments

Since Brexit, the rules on passport validity for British visitors to the European Union have tightened. But the UK government tells travellers the regulations are worse than they actually are.

After requests from The Independent, the Home Office has taken down its defective post-Brexit passport checker.

But the government continues to publish inaccurate information about the validity of British travel documents in the European Union.

These are the key questions and answers based on European Union rules, not the UK government’s interpretation of them.

What’s changed?

While the UK was in the European Union, British passports were valid up to and including their expiry date for travel within the EU.

Since the end of the Brexit transition phase, British passport holders are treated as “third country nationals” with stipulations about passport expiry dates and limits on length of stay almost everywhere in Europe.

What is required for my passport to be valid?

The requirements are crisply expressed here on the Travel page of the European Union’s Your Europe site: “If you are a non-EU national wishing to visit or travel within the EU, you will need a passport

  • valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting,
  • which was issued within the previous 10 years.”

These two conditions are independent of each other. That means you could happily go to Europe on 1 January 2022 with a passport issued on 2 January 2012 with an expiry date of 1 July 2022 and stay there until 31 March 2022.

But the UK government claims otherwise, and many travel firms have followed its online advice.

This does not apply for trips to Ireland, for which there are no limits on passport validity – and for which a passport is not legally mandatory for British travellers, though some airlines insist on it.

Why the line about ‘issued within the previous 10 years’?

For many years, until September 2018, the UK had a generous policy of allowing credit for “unspent” time when renewing a passport, issuing documents valid for up to 10 years and nine months.

So a passport issued on 31 October 2011 could show an expiry date of 31 July 2022.

This was fine around Europe and the world for decade – until Brexit, whereupon a longstanding rule kicked in. For non-members of the EU, a passport is deemed to have expired after 10 years.

That passport issued on 31 October 2011 is regarded by the EU as expiring on 31 October 2021.

Anyone attempting to travel to the European Union from 1 November 2021 will correctly be denied boarding – even though the British passport has many months to run.

Until September 2018 the government appeared unaware of the problem. Once the issue was identified, the practice of giving up to nine months’ grace ended abruptly.

But the “issued less than 10 years ago” and “valid for three months” rules are not combined?

Correct. There is no need to have a passport issued less than nine years, nine months ago.

A spokesperson for the European Commission told The Independent: “To give a practical example, a non-EU traveller arriving on 1 December 2021 for a 20 days stay in the EU with a passport issued on 2 December 2011 and valid until 2 April 2022 will be allowed entry.”

The UK government has a different view ...

Yes. The online guidance for British passport holders visiting the EU insists: “Your passport must also be less than 10 years old on the day after you leave.” That implies that the two conditions are interdependent (or “cumulative”) whereas the EU has made clear they are independent.

A government spokesperson said: “The European Commission has explicitly advised us, including in correspondence received [on 10 November 2021], that the conditions of a passport being less than 10 years old and valid for three months post-return date are cumulative.

“We are engaging with the Commission to seek further clarification and, if this is no longer the case, will update our advice in due course.”

In establishing a British traveller’s right to visit the EU, the UK’s interpretation of European rules is irrelevant. The Independent has contacted the leading airlines to remind them that if they wrongly deny boarding to passengers they will be liable to pay cash compensation on top of making good financial losses.

I’ve just read a report saying I need six months remaining?

Some news outlets, regrettably, are providing misleading advice. And for the avoidance of doubt, the concern around the date of issue is relevant only for travel to the European Union – not for the rest of the world.

For destinations outside EU, the only significant consideration is the expiry date. And for destinations such as the US and Canada, your passport is valid up to and including this date.

Which is legally superior: European rules or the UK’s unusual interpretation?

Europe’s: the destination’s attitude is what counts. During the summer Jet2, not unreasonably, followed UK advice and barred a number of passengers from flights to Europe. After The Independent pointed out that this was in breach of European air passengers’ rights rules, Jet2 apologised and compensated the affected holidaymakers.

Britain's biggest holiday company, Tui, has changed its policy to align it with European rules. A spokesperson for the travel giant said: “Following new information provided, we can confirm that we have now changed our policy accordingly.

“Customers will not be denied boarding on the basis that their passport needs to meet both conditions dependently.”

And the UK’s largest budget airline, easyJet, has distanced itself from the government’s mistaken version.

A spokesperson said: “Although we have been following the advice from the UK government on passport validity which remains unchanged, following new information seen from the European Commission, we can confirm that we have now updated our policy and website wording to be clear that should customers have an extended expiry date over 10 years this can be counted as part of the three months required from their intended departure from the EU.”

But individual carriers can create their own variations. Ryanair passengers must confirm: “I understand that if I am using a British passport to travel, it must be valid for a minimum of six months from the date I enter any EU Member State.”

This is believed to be a legally unsustainable condition. The Independent has reminded the carrier of the rules.

What about children?

They are particularly annoying, or at least their passports are, because they are typically valid for five years (and any extra credit).

The Home Office’s defective passport checker stripped all extra credit, which was both wrong and unhelpful.

The online checker has now been switched off.

When are you going to renew your passport?

It was issued on 23 May 2012 and expires on 23 February 2023. The passport is therefore valid for departure to the EU up to 22 May 2022. I will renew it in advance of the next planned trip to Europe after that date.

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