Your essential guide to renewing your passport

Updated April 17, 2023
Published February 20, 2020

Planning a holiday this summer? Check your passport now.

With ongoing passport office strikes that could lead to processing delays, plus more reports of travellers being caught out by the EU ten-year rule, you may want to sort your passport sooner rather than later.

Here’s our advice for keeping a step ahead of passport formalities.

When should I renew my passport?

Credit: Annie Spratt | Unsplash

Before booking any overseas travel, check the validity of your passport. In general, you should renew your passport if it will expire in less than six months from the date of your return to the UK.

If your passport runs out at least six months after the date you’re returning to the UK, you can carry on and book your trip.

If you have less than six months’ validity, we recommend applying for a new passport straight away. Not only are processing times currently around ten weeks, but current passport office strikes, which are taking place for workers over five weeks between April 3 to May 5 in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, could lead to further delays.

The Home Office is also predicting another massive year for renewals meaning the number of passport applications are expected to be exceptionally high. The Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Matthew Rycroft, has warned that there could be an “extra million” applications in the first half of 2023.

“We need to be ready for next year to be even busier,” he told MPs in December. “Now would be a very good time for anybody listening [to renew their passports].”

According to a report by the National Audit Office, around 360,000 people had to wait longer than 10 weeks for their documents to arrive in 2022.

Remember: you can apply to renew your passport at any time, regardless of its expiry date. However, you cannot carry-over any ‘unused’ months.

And as for general validity rules, you should always check with the UK consulate of the country or countries you’re visiting or take a look at the entry requirements on the FCDO's travel advice pages.

How does Brexit affect my passport?

For travel to EU and EEA countries after Brexit, you should check both your issue date and expiry date. The European Commission advises that your passport must:

  • Be less than ten years old on the date you enter the EU, and
  • Have a minimum of three months’ validity after the day you intend to leave.

If you have extra months on your passport (before September 2018, you could carry-over up to nine ‘unused’ months), it will not be valid for entry after the ten-year mark. Previously, your passport only needed to be valid for the duration of your stay.

This ten-year rule is still catching out EU-bound travellers and airlines are turning people away at the gate. To stay ahead of the rule – and avoid missing out on your holiday – be sure to check your passport’s expiry date as well as the date it was issued to ensure it’s less than ten years old.

The exception to this is Ireland, where passport validity rules will not change. You can check if your passport will be valid for travel to Europe on the Home Office website.

Note that passports that still carry the European Union wording will be valid until they expire.

So, I need a new passport – what are my options?

You have three choices when you apply:

1. A standard ten-year passport application costs £82.50 for an adult and £53.50 for a child online. A paper form costs £93 (£64). It’s up to you to submit the forms and paperwork correctly; any omissions will delay the application. The government has advised that it takes longer to apply by post than online.

For a belt-and-braces approach, the Post Office runs a Check & Send service for £98.50 (£69.50 for kids), which ensures all your documents are present and correct before you lodge your application. The paper application costs £109 (or £80 for children).

Straightforward applications and renewals can take up to ten weeks to process. Applying for a first adult passport also takes up to ten weeks; mistakes will delay the application. You may have to attend an interview if certain information can’t be verified.

2. A one-week Fast Track service costs £155 for an adult (£126 for kids) and requires you to visit a passport office with a paper application.

3. An Online Premium service is an even faster, emergency application costing £193.50. You will need to apply online and book an appointment to collect your passport.

If you need to travel urgently for medical treatment or serious family issues, you should call the Passport Adviceline directly. See the Home Office website for more information.

What if your passport doesn’t arrive in time – is there anything you can do?

If you get to within one week of your departure date and your passport hasn’t arrived, you should immediately contact the office to which you submitted your application (see the Home Office website or call 0300 222 0000) and they will advise you as to your options.

If, for whatever reason, you still don’t have your application by your departure date, unfortunately you can’t claim for flight or other holiday costs on your travel insurance.

Neither can you claim compensation from the Home Office. And airlines and tour operators are equally unsympathetic about out-of-date documents, so you’re highly unlikely to receive anything from them.

Remember: it’s your responsibility to ensure your passport is up to date. With travellers rushing to sort out their passports in time for summer, it makes good sense to apply as early as possible to renew your documentation.

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