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Updated October 8, 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After saving hard for a big holiday, the last thing you want is to have the whole thing ruined by an out-of-date passport.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) 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, you will need a minimum of three months left on your passport from the day after you plan to leave the EU/EAA. Previously, your passport only needed to be valid for the duration of your stay.
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 not be valid after the ten year mark, and you should not travel on the extra months. 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.
You have three choices when you apply:
1. A standard ten-year passport application. It costs £75.50 for an adult (£49 for a child) online. A paper form costs £85 (£58.50). It’s up to you to submit the forms and paperwork correctly; any omissions will delay the application. You may find using the online forms quicker and easier.
For a belt-and-braces approach, the Post Office runs a Check & Send service for £91.50 (£65 for kids), which ensures all your documents are present and correct before you lodge your application. The paper application costs £101.
Straightforward applications and renewals can currently take up to ten weeks to process, though the government says that as of October, it can be as little as five weeks. Applying for a first adult passport also takes between six and 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. It costs £142 for an adult (£122 for kids) and requires you to visit a passport office with a paper application.
3. An Online Premium service. It is an even faster, emergency application costing £177. You will need to apply online and book an appointment to collect your passport
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 as travel re-starts, it makes good sense to apply as early as possible to renew your documentation.