If you’re planning a getaway imminently, you might want to check that your passport is valid for your destination.

Beware that if you’re heading to a country within the European Union, your passport needs to be less than 10 years old on the date you arrive, and valid for at least three months after the date you leave. This includes, for example, popular holiday destinations such as Spain, Cyprus, Greece and Italy.

A number of travellers have been caught out by the change in entry requirements that were introduced following Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

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Here we explain how the rules work and how you can avoid falling foul of them.

What new rules do I need to bear in mind?

Most of the changes will relate to any travel within the European Union (EU), particularly within the Schengen area, which consists of 26 EU countries that have abolished passport requirements across their borders, allowing free movement.

While the UK was never part of the Schengen area, as EU citizens your UK passport was valid when travelling in the area, allowing you to travel up to and including your passport’s expiry date. However, since Brexit, UK nationals are now viewed as ‘third country nationals’, which means the rules around issue and expiry dates are stricter.

While countries may have different entry requirements, for most Schengen area countries, your passport needs to be:

  • Less than 10 years old on the day you leave (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • Valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

It’s possible to be caught out by the new rules when it comes to the issue date in particular. As things stand, if your passport was issued more than 10 years ago, it’s likely to be invalid for travel to a number of European countries, so it’s really important to check both the issue and expiry date of your passport before you book anything.

UK adult passports can now only be valid for 10 years. However, until September 2018, when you applied for a new passport you could transfer any outstanding months from your old passport to your new one, up to a maximum of nine months. For example, if you applied for a new passport six months before your old one was due to expire, you would be able to transfer these onto your new one, giving you a passport that was valid for 10 years and six months.

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What can I do if my passport isn’t valid, but I’ve already booked my holiday?

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, try not to panic. You may still be able to get your passport updated before you travel.

Check passport renewal timelines

The HM Passport Office (HMPO) publishes their average passport renewal times here, so you can check how long it is currently taking to get passports renewed (three weeks at the time of writing). Depending on when you need to travel, you might be fine going with the usual passport renewal process, which will cost you £88.50 for a standard 34-page passport if you apply online, or £100 if you fill in a paper form.

If you need to travel sooner than the HMPO estimated times, you might need to use one of the two fast track passport options, which we explain below.

Fast track a passport application

The following two services should enable you to renew your passport in either one day or a week. If you need a passport sooner for compassionate or medical reasons, then you should contact the Passport Advice Line on 0300 222 0000, which is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and Saturday, Sunday and UK bank holidays, 9am to 5:30pm.

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One day Premium Service

The one-day Premium Service costs £207.50 for a standard passport or £219.50 for a 54 page one, and is one of the fastest services that the HMPO offers. You will be asked to book an appointment, apply and pay online, and you’ll get your new passport at your appointment. There are a few criteria that you have to meet to use the service. For example, you need to be living in the UK, and your last passport must have been issued after 31 December 2001.

To apply for this service, you’ll need to answer a few questions to check if you can use the service, which you can do at GOV.UK. If you can use the service you can then select an appointment to collect your new passport – the earliest available appointments are usually two days from the date you apply.

Once you’ve booked your appointment, you will need to complete your application online and pay the fee by debit or credit card. The application is much like the usual passport application process and you will need to have a recent digital photo ready, which can either be a digital copy of your passport photo, or a photo taken on your mobile phone.

If you get your photo taken in a photo booth, make sure to use one that offers a digital photo option with a code so that you can enter this on your application. There are certain rules that your photo needs to comply with, which you can read here. Helpfully, if you opt to have your photo taken in a photo booth or shop, they will usually have an analysis tool that indicates whether your photo meets these rules, so you shouldn’t have to worry about your photo being rejected.

When you’ve applied and paid the fee, if everything goes through you can pick up your passport at the appointed time you choose. Don’t forget to take your old passport with you as you won’t be able to get your new one without it. This appointment will usually last for around 30 minutes.

One week Fast Track service

If you have a little more time before you go on holiday then you might go for the slightly slower and cheaper one week Fast Track Service. You can use the service to renew an expired adult or child passport or one that’s about to expire, change any personal details, replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport or to apply for a first child’s passport.

The Fast Track Service costs £166.50 for an adult passport (£178.50 for a 54 page frequent traveller passport) £135.50 for a child passport (£147.50 for a 54 page frequent traveller passport) and to apply you’ll need to:

Book an appointment online and pay the fee – The way you apply for the one week Fast Track Service has changed – you no longer need to fill out a paper form. You will be asked to book an appointment, apply and pay online. Your new passport will be delivered by courier to your home one week after your appointment. You can book here.

Your appointment will be at your nearest passport office. These are based in Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport and Peterborough, so you may have to travel to get to your nearest one. You can book the appointment before you complete the form, so if you’re confident that you have all the relevant documentation to go through the application process, it might be worth booking this as soon as possible to prevent delays.

Attend your appointment – Take your completed application form, supporting documents and two identical photos for each application (you can read the rules that your photos need to comply with here). If you realise you can’t attend your appointment, you can still change it provided it’s more than two days away. If it’s less than two days away you can’t change the appointment and you will lose the fee you paid.

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Don’t forget to check your Global Health Insurance Card

If you are planning to travel to Europe, make sure you pack a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which is the successor to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles UK residents to free or discounted medical care when travelling in EU countries and Switzerland. If your EHIC is still valid, you can use it up until its expiry date.

While you shouldn’t notice too much of a difference with the move from EHIC to GHIC, since we left the EU only EHICs and not GHICs provide you with cover for healthcare access in Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway. If you are travelling to any of these countries, then you might want to make sure your travel insurance provides you with enough medical cover for your activities.

If your EHIC has expired, you will have to apply for a new GHIC, which can take up to two weeks to process. For more information on how you can apply, have a look at our article Everything you need to know about the Global Health Insurance Card. Remember that the GHIC should never be seen as a substitute for travel insurance as it will only cover some medical costs and won’t provide you with any financial protection if, for example, your baggage is lost or stolen, or if you experience travel delays or have to cancel your holiday.

Get 20% off your travel insurance quote from Staysure

We have teamed up with Staysure to provide you with first class travel insurance, tailored to suit your needs. You can also take advantage of our 20% discount, just quote RLESS at checkout.

Discount applies to the base premium of the policy only and not to medical screening costs or add-ons where relevant. Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply.

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