After months of vehement representations of The Independentthe Foreign Office has now aligned its travel advice with European Commission rules on passport validity for British visitors to the EU.
The change follows similar moves by the two major low-cost airlines, easyJet and Ryanair.
Many readers have contacted The Independent seeking clarity on the rules. These are seven of the key questions.
Q: My passport was issued on 29th May 2012 and is valid until 29th February 2023. Will I be allowed to travel to France with Irish Ferries on 28th May?
A: Great time. According to European Union rules, you will travel on the last possible day that your passport will allow you to travel to most of Europe.
The entry requirements for a UK passport holder into the EU (and the wider Schengen area, including Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) are as follows:
- Date of issue less than 10 years ago on the day of entry into the EU.
- Expiry date in at least three months from the expected day of return.
You fulfill the first condition of a single day – which is sufficient for the European authorities – and the second of six months.
An irritation is that Irish Ferries’ online advice on the subject seems to be ancient history. It says: “In the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, UK passport holders traveling to France should note the following:
“On the day of your trip, you will need your passport so that you have at least six months left [and] be less than 10 years old (even if they have six months or more left).
The first of these conditions is false, but you pass it anyway. Have a good trip.
Q: I am traveling to Portugal on June 23 for a week. My passport was issued on September 21, 2012 and expires in February 2023. Will I be allowed entry? I keep reading conflicting advice and Ryanair is unclear on this.
A: Over the past six months, the European Commission has been crystal clear on the two rules applicable to British visitors to the EU. But many travel companies have been slow to correct their policies and online information to comply with the rules.
Ryanair changed its terms and conditions last week, but I understand that during the check-in process passengers must still tick a box indicating they have at least six months to run on their passports.
This is an unenforceable clause and you can safely ignore it if your passport complies with the above rules. In your case, you can enter Portugal any day until September 20 and stay there for up to 90 days (another EU rule we asked to be subject to).
Please don’t renew your passport unnecessarily early – this only adds pressure to the 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 have more than six months on my passport but less than 10 and you’re not going to a European country (in my case I’m going to Turkey) then I’ll be okay for travel?
A: Are you going somewhere other than the EU and the Schengen area? Ignore the date your passport was issued. Focus only on the expiration date. And while it’s good to have six months for Turkey, forget everything you’ve been told about a mandatory six-month validity requirement worldwide.
My colleague Lucy Thackray has written a very helpful article on passport expiration requirements around the world.
As she says, each country sets its own rules on how long it requires before your passport expires. Many of them – including Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Japan, Mexico, Tunisia and the United States – allow you to stay there up to and including the expiration date of the passport. Cleverly, Costa Rica says your passport must be valid for at least one day from the date of your departure – this means you should be able to return home with no problem.
Around the world, there is little agreement: Cuba wants two months left when you leave the island. The European Union wants three months left on the day you leave the EU, and it’s also the only part of the world that cares about when your passport was issued (it must be less than 10 years ago the day of your entry into the European Union).
Many popular countries including Dominican Republic, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Peru, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and United Arab Emirates (including Dubai) want six months left on the day you intend to leave their country.
In the case of Turkey, the rules are more complex, but it is best to follow the advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which states: “Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival and there must be a complete blank page for entry and exit stamps.
And for the avoidance of doubt: there is no illusionary “new” expiration date 10 years after issuance. Many people’s passports will be valid for exactly one decade, but if you’re lucky enough to have longer than that, only the printed expiration date matters.
Q: My children 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 are fine. Cape Verde is one of those countries where you need six months validity from the date of entry. As mentioned above, the date of issue is irrelevant for locations outside the EU. (And of course, all children’s passports pass the European test issued within the last 10 years.)
Q: Do you have any idea of the latest news on the border between Gibraltar and Spain? We are passing through Gibraltar to stay in Spain at the end of the month. We have heard of issues where you need to prove that you have accommodation/return flights/sufficient funds for your stay. My in-laws were held for several hours a few weeks ago.
A: What your in-laws went through was exactly what the UK asked for. The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated after the Brexit vote called for British passport holders to be considered ‘third country nationals’.
As such, border officials are obliged to ensure that arrivals from the UK will not become a burden on the state and will not illegally overstay.
Many border crossings do not strictly enforce the rules; but conversely, Spain may have its own political reasons for making a point.
Gibraltar may become part of the Schengen area, which will be politically interesting – but practically very useful, without fixed border controls between the British Overseas Territory and Spain.
Q: I have a UK passport which was issued on 1 October 2012 and has an expiry date of 1 April 2023 which makes it valid for 10 years and six months. Is my passport valid for travel to Thailand in August?
So confused with all the news articles and can’t get to the passport office.
A: Trust what I say – your passport is valid to enter Thailand until October 1, 2022; it happens to be coincidentally his 10th birthday, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that on the day of entry there are at least six months left on your passport.
To reaffirm: the only places on earth that care about when your passport was issued are countries in the European Union. All other countries just want your expiration date to be compliant.
There is no need to contact the Passport Adviceline: they are not qualified to answer questions about the rules of nations around the world.
(Gill replies later: thank you, someone finally understood. The passport office didn’t answer, the Thai embassy told me to ask the airline, they just circled around!)
Q: I’m still freaking out about my passport. Ends September 2022. He will have three months back in the UK from Ibiza. Are you OK ?
A: From the information you provide, I can’t say – but you may well be ineligible to travel within the European Union, I’m afraid.
I take it that your passport was issued between December 2011 and September 2012 and that you are traveling for a break of a week or two in May or June 2022. It is clear that your passport meets the expiry date condition – but I’m afraid it won’t pass the issue date test.
If your departure date is on or after the 10th anniversary of the passport, you will not be able to travel. However, if you’re just a few days off (for example, your passport was issued on June 1, 2012 and you’re due to travel on June 2, 2022), it might be worth changing your flight for May 31 (or buy a completely new one). You will be able to enter Spain legally; spend a few days in a local hotel; then begin your actual vacation.
If, however, the dates don’t work, you’re in a tricky position: HM Passport Office has priority options, but these are hopelessly oversubscribed. With three weeks to go, it’s worth applying online for a renewal; if you get the right application (and especially make sure the photo is correct), chances are you’ll get a new document by the end of the first week of June. I hope it’s in time.
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