What the 10-year-passport rule means for you and your holiday

Posted in General Travel Travel Insurance, 10 year passport rule, travel insurance to europe, passport 3 months rule on 4 April 2024

Many Brits are being caught out by the 10-year passport rule that’s been brought in by the European Union (EU) and Schengen Area. It is estimated that 2.4 million UK travellers could be affected by the changes in entry requirements. Here’s how you can make sure you’re not one of them.

What has changed and why is it causing confusion?

After Brexit, those travelling on a UK passport are now considered ‘third country nationals’ to the EU and are therefore subject to those rules. These rules state that any non-EU nationals will need a passport that:

  • Is valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting,
  • Was issued within the previous 10 years.

The confusion arises when a UK passport holder has several months remaining on their passport but they don’t realise it was issued over 10 years ago. This situation can occur as the UK government previously allowed you to renew your passport early and carry over ‘unspent time’ onto your next passport document. This meant you could have a valid passport for up to 10 years and 9 months.

It is those people who had these extra months added to their passports who are now being caught out, with UK travellers being classed as ‘third country nationals’, as it may seem reasonable to assume that because your passport is still valid, it will be accepted.

This makes it more important than ever to double check your passport before you travel to Europe or any Schengen countries to avoid being turned away at the boarding gate. It is still worth doing these checks before any international travel, but remember different countries will have differing entry requirements and may simply require a valid passport.

Who is this likely to affect?

As we mentioned, it is estimated that 2.4 million travellers could be affected by this change in EU entry requirements. Those most likely to be affected are adults, as children aged 16 and under when their passport was last renewed, could only renew for a maximum of 5 years or 5 years and 9 months (with carried over ‘unspent time’), if renewing before September 2018. It is worth noting that children are therefore more likely to fall foul of the requirement to have 3-months remaining on their passport rule, as their passports will expire sooner.

September 2018 was the final date when passports could renew and carry over ‘unspent time’ to their new documents. Anyone who renewed their passport before this date will need to double check when their passport was issued and when the passport expires before travelling to European countries, or any other countries requiring these conditions to be met.

After September 2018, the UK government no longer allowed the carrying over of unused months, so passports issued after this should be unaffected.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do I need on my passport to travel?

When travelling to the EU, your passport will need to be valid for at least 3 months after your intended return date.

Is the 10 year rule in place across the world?

No, most countries outside of the EU only care about the expiry date of your passport. Countries around the world are free to impose their own entry requirements so be sure to check these before travelling.

When should I renew my passport?

You should renew your passport before either: it expires, the date of issue was more than 10 years ago (if travelling to countries with the 10-year rule), or your passport does not have enough time left before it expires.

Be aware that any months left on your current passport won’t be carried over onto your new passport.

How do you renew your passport?

You can renew your passport online at HM Passport Office or you can visit certain Post Offices and fill in a paper application. Remember, you will need your old passport and any valid passports you hold from different countries.

For online applications you will need a digital photo which meets specific requirements, whereas for paper applications you will need two identical printed photos.

There are specific rules in place if you are renewing for a child, your passport has been lost, stolen, or damaged, or you need to change your personal details.

How do I know if my passport’s valid for travel?

This will depend on the entry requirements of the country you are wanting to visit. Be sure to check this as it may mean you need to check your passport issue date and expiry date as well.

What are the passport requirements for EU travel?

You have the 10 year passport rule and the passport 3 month rule in place in the EU for ‘third country nationals’. This means your passport must have been issued within the last 10 years and must be valid for at least 3 months after your intended return date.

What if I get wrongly turned away from my trip?

If you are wrongly turned away from your holiday or even end up cancelling your trip because you were turned away, then you can claim denied boarding compensation and associated costs. These should be taken up with your airline as these are your legal rights.

How long does it take to renew a passport?

Typically, it will take up to 3 weeks for you to renew a passport, but when demand is high it can take much longer. These periods are usually around popular travel periods such as Easter or summer, so if you can, you may want to try and avoid these times when renewing your passport.

If you urgently require a new passport then you can apply for a fast-track service. There are two fast-track options where you can receive a passport within 1 week or even in 1 day. Both options cost more than the standard service and will require you to book an appointment with a passport office.

How much does it cost to renew my passport?

At the time of writing (04/04/2024), an adult passport renewal will cost £82.50 online and £93 if you apply via a paper form. Child passports cost £53.50 online and £64 via the paper form.

These will be increasing from the 11th April.

Fast track passports will cost significantly more. The 1-week fast track service passports cost £155 for an adult and £126 for a child. A 1-day premium fast track passport will cost £193.50 for an adult and are not available for children.

Do these new rules apply to travel to Ireland?

British travellers to the Republic of Ireland do not require a passport due to the Common Travel Area (CTA) and therefore there are no minimum validity rules. If you are flying, then the airline may demand a passport for the journey.

What is the Schengen Area 90/180 day rule?

This stipulates that British passport holders can only stay in Schengen area countries for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period. What this means is that within any consecutive 180 days, you are only allowed to stay in that country for a maximum of 90 cumulative days.

For instance, you could stay for 90 consecutive days and then you would need to leave for a minimum of 90 consecutive days before returning.

This rule is separate from the new passport rules.

Examples of the 10 year passport rule in effect

Below are a couple of examples to help explain these changes and what you need to be aware of.

Example 1: John’s passport is valid for 10 years and 6 months. It was issued on the 9th April 2014 and is due to expire on the 9th October 2024. John plans to travel to Spain on the 7th April 2024 for a two-week holiday. Because John’s trip starts before his passport reaches 10 years old and because he still has 3 months of validity when his trip ends, he would be free to enter Spain.

In that example, even though John’s passport had the ‘unspent time’ carried onto his passport he was still ok to travel as his passport had been issued within the previous 10 years. John’s passport is also valid for at least 3 months after his trips end date which also meets the EU’s entry requirements.

Example 2: John is planning to travel again shortly after he returns from his trip to Spain on the same passport as before (See example 1). This time he plans to leave on the 10th June 2024, and return on the 10th August 2024. Here, John would be unable to travel as he falls foul of both stipulations imposed on ‘third country nationals’.

In this second example, John would be starting his trip more than 10 years after his passport was issued and would be returning with less than 3 months remaining on his passport, meaning he doesn’t meet the criteria for entry into the EU.

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