After months of strident representations from The Independent, the Foreign Office has now aligned its travel advice with the European Commission’s rules on passport validity for British visitors to the EU.
Many readers have contacted The Independent in search of clarity about the rules. These are seven of the key questions.
Q: My passport was issued on the 29 May 2012 and is valid until 29 February 2023. Will I be allowed to travel to France with Irish Ferries on 28 May?
A: Great timing. According to European Union rules you will be travelling on the last possible day that your passport will allow for a trip to most of Europe.
The conditions for entry of a British passport holder to the EU (and wider Schengen Area, including Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) are these:
- Issue date less than 10 years ago on day of entry to EU.
- Expiry date at least three months away on intended day of return.
You meet the first condition by a single day – which is good enough for the European authorities – and the second by six months.
One irritation is that Irish Ferries’ online advice on the subject appears to be ancient history. It says: “In the event of the UK leaving the EU with no deal, holders of UK passports travelling to France should note the following:
“On the day you travel, you’ll need your passport to both have at least six months left [and] be less than 10 years old (even if it has six months or more left).”
The first of those conditions is wrong, but you pass it anyway. Bon voyage.
Q: I’m travelling to to Portugal on 23 June for a week. My passport was issued on 21 September 2012 and expires in February 2023. Will I be allowed entry? I keep reading conflicting advice and Ryanair aren’t being clear about it.
A: For the past six months there has been complete clarity from the European Commission about the two rules for British visitors to the EU. But many travel firms have been slow in correcting their policies and online information to align with the rules.
Ryanair changed its terms and conditions last week, but I understand during the check-in process passengers are still expected to tick a box saying they have at least six months to run on their passports.
This is an unenforceable term and you can safely ignore it if your passport complies with the rules above. In your case you can enter Portugal any day up to 20 September and stay for up to 90 days (another EU rule we asked to become subject to).
Please don’t renew your passport unnecessarily early – it only adds to the pressure at HM Passport Office, and slows down the process for people who really need new documents.
Q: I just wanted to confirm that as long as I’ve got over six months on my passport but less than 10 years and you’re not going to a European country (in my case I am going to Turkey) then I will be OK to travel?
A: Going anywhere other than the EU and the Schengen area? Ignore the issue date of your passport. Focus only on the expiry date. And while it’s good to have six months for Turkey, forget any tosh you may have been told about a mandatory six-month validity requirement worldwide.
My colleague Lucy Thackray has written a really useful article on passport expiry requirements worldwide.
As she says, every country makes its own rules on how much time they demand before your passport expires. Many of them – including Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Japan, Mexico, Tunisia and the US – allow you to remain there up to and including the expiry date of the passport. Shrewdly, Costa Rica says your passport should have at least one day’s validity from the date you are leaving – that means you should be able to get home without problem.
Across the world there’s little agreement: Cuba wants two months remaining when you leave the island. The European Union wants three months remaining on the day you leave the EU, and it is also the only part of the world that cares when your passport was issued (it must be less than 10 years ago on the day of entry to the European Union).
A lot of popular countries, including the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Peru, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the UAE (including Dubai) want six months remaining on the day you intend to leave their nation.
In the case of Turkey, the rules are more complex, but it’s best to comply with the Foreign Office advice, which says: “Your passport should be valid for at least six months from the date you arrive and there should be a full blank page for the entry and exit stamps.”
And for the absolute avoidance of doubt: there is no illusory “new” expiry date 10 years after issue. Many people’s passports will be valid for exactly a decade, but if you are lucky enough to have longer than that, it is only the printed expiry date that matters.
Q: My kids have passports issued in November 2017 which are valid until April 2023. We are going to Cape Verde in August will they be valid or do we need to renew?
A: Yes, they’re fine. Cape Verde is one of those countries where you need six months’ validity from date of entry. As mentioned above the issue date is irrelevant for places outside the EU. (And of course all children’s passports pass the European test on issued within the past 10 years.)
Q: Any idea as to the latest at the Gibraltar-Spain border? We’re flying via Gibraltar to stay in Spain at the end of the month. We have heard of issues where you need to prove accommodation/return flights/sufficient funds for your stay. My in-laws were held up for several hours a few weeks ago.
A: What your in-laws experienced was exactly what the UK asked to happen. The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated after the Brexit vote asked for UK passport holders to be regarded as “third-country nationals”.
As such, frontier officials are obliged to satisfy themselves that arrivals from the UK will not become a burden on the state and they will not illegally overstay.
Many border crossings do not enforce the rules strictly; but conversely, Spain may have its own political reasons for making a point.
It may be that Gibraltar becomes part of the Schengen area, which will be politically interesting – but practically very useful, with no fixed border checks between the British Overseas Territory and Spain.
Q: I have a British passport that was issued on 1 October 2012 and has an expiry date of 1 April 2023, making it valid for 10 years and six months. Is my passport valid for a trip to Thailand in August?
So confused with all the articles in the press and cannot get through to the passport office.
A: Trust what I say – that your passport is valid for entry to Thailand up to 1 October 2022; this coincidentally happens to be its 10th birthday, but that is irrelevant. What counts is that on the day of entry there is at least six months remaining on your passport.
To restate: the only places on earth that care when your passport was issued are countries in the European Union. Every other country just wants your expiry date to be compliant.
There is no point contacting the Passport Adviceline: it is not qualified to answer questions on rules for nations worldwide.
(Gill later replies: Thank you, finally got some sense from someone. Passport office have not replied, Thai embassy telling me to ask the airline, just went round in circles!)
Q: Still panicking about my passport. Runs out in September 2022. It will have three months on return to UK from Ibiza. Is that OK?
A: From the information you provide, I can’t tell – but it could well be that you are no longer eligible to travel to the European Union, I’m afraid.
I deduce that your passport was issued some time between December 2011 and September 2012, and that you are travelling for a break of a week or two in either May or June 2022. It is clear that your passport meets the expiry date condition – but I fear it may not pass the issue date test.
If your departure date is on or after the passport’s 10th birthday, you will not be able to travel. However, if you are awry by just a couple of days involved (eg your passport was issued on 1 June 2012 and you are due to travel on 2 June 2022) then it could well be worth switching your flight to 31 May (or buying a completely new one). You will be able legally to enter Spain; spend a couple of days in a local hotel; and then begin your holiday proper.
If, however, the dates don’t work you are in a tricky position: HM Passport Office has priority options, but this is hopelessly oversubscribed. With three weeks to go, it is well worth applying online for a renewal; if you get the application right (and crucially ensure that the photo is compliant) then the chances are you will get a new document by the end of the first week in June. I hope this is in time.
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