If you’re planning a summer getaway or are travelling abroad at all, 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.
Here we explain the rules and how you can avoid being caught out.
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.
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. Depending on when you need to travel, you might be fine going with the usual passport renewal process, which will cost you £82.50 if you apply online, or £93 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 anything between two days and 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.
Online Premium Service
The Online Premium Service costs £193.50 for a standard passport or £204.50 for a 50 page one, and is one of the fastest services that the HMPO offers. If everything goes smoothly, you might be able to get your passport in as little as a few days. 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. 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 £155 for an adult passport (£166 for a 50 page frequent traveller passport) £126 for a child passport (£137 for a 50 page frequent traveller passport) and to apply you’ll need to:
Get a paper application form from your local Post Office – Unfortunately there isn’t an online application for this service so you’ll need to pick up a form and fill it out by hand. You can find your nearest post office here. You need to fill out this form and gather any documents it highlights to bring with you to your appointment. Have a look at this guidance leaflet if you’re having difficulty filling out the form.
Book an appointment online and pay the fee – 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.
Don’t forget to check your Global Health Insurance Card
If you are planning to travel to Europe, it’s useful to be aware that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC – previously E111) is being phased out and replaced with the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) for all EU countries.
These cards provide you with free or reduced-cost healthcare when travelling in Europe and while you shouldn’t notice too much of a difference with the move from EHIC to GHIC, since we left the EU neither GHICs nor EHICs provide you with cover for healthcare access in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. 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.
The good news is, as EHICs are being gradually phased out, an in-date card is still valid and can be used. 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.