Updated January 5, 2021
(Published February 20, 2020)
After saving hard for a big holiday, the last thing you want is to have the whole thing ruined by an out-of-date passport. Here’s our advice for keeping a step ahead of passport formalities.
Before booking any overseas travel, check the validity on 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, as you are likely to be required to have three to six months left on your document beyond your return date (if you hold only a British passport, that is). Check with the UK consulate of the country or countries you’re visiting or take a look at the entry requirements on the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO; formerly the FCO) advice pages for the destination you’re visiting.
Remember: you can apply to renew your passport at any time, regardless of its expiry date. However, as of September 2018, any unexpired time on your previous passport will be lost due to a policy change from the Passport Office. Previously, you could carry up to nine months over.
For non-EU travel, Brexit will have little effect. For travel to EU and EEA countries after Brexit, the Home Office advises that you should have a minimum of six months left on your passport on the day you leave the UK. However, the EU says something different: it says that you need at least three months left on your passport from your intended date of departure from the EU. We will update this guide again if and when the rules are aligned. In the meantime, we recommend following the Home Office guidelines.
In addition, your passport must be less than ten years old to travel to the EU. That means any passports with carried-over months will need up to fifteen months’ validity (that’s the regular six months, plus any you’ve carried over from a previous renewal). In short, according to the Home Office, your passport should not be older than nine years and six months on the date you leave the UK (to account for the six-month validity requirement). The exception to this is Ireland, where passport validity rules will not change.
Note that passports that still carry the European Union wording will be valid until they expire.
At the time of writing, passport offices are closed due to Covid-19. Unless you urgently need a passport for work or compassionate reasons, there are currently only two options to renew:
Straightforward applications and renewals should take around three weeks to process. Applying for a first passport takes longer (around six weeks); mistakes will also delay the application. If you must travel for work or compassionate reasons, phone the Passport Adviceline (0300 222 0000) to apply for a passport urgently.
There are usually two other options for fast-track passport renewals:
See the Home Office website for more information.
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 a busy period approaching now that the Brexit transition period has ended, it makes good sense to apply as early as possible to renew your documentation.
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The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides valuable up-to-date travel advice for British citizens abroad. It is the best resource for reliable safety and security information. You can also find other important details, such as local laws, passport information and visa requirements. Stay safe abroad – check the FCDO before you travel.