How and when to renew your passport
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information. It was originally published on 20 October 2019.
You may know your passport expiry date by heart if you’re an avid traveller, as you’ll enter it each time you book a flight. But even if you can recite its sell-by, that doesn’t mean that’s the date you should renew your passport — far from it.
When should you renew your passport?
The following countries require your British passport to be valid for the duration of your visit there. So in this case, you wouldn’t need to renew your passport unless the expiry date is during your trip:
- European Union countries, excluding Cyprus
But there are also countries that require you have at least six months validity left on your passport before they will allow you to enter. These include:
- South Africa
If you know for sure that you will not need to travel to any “six-month” countries like those listed above in the next seven months, you may feel comfortable waiting until around six weeks before your passport expiry date to renew your British passport.
Renewals usually take around three weeks, but I would definitely allow a buffer of two to three weeks extra time in case of any delays with the renewal process — the sleepless nights aren’t worth it.
If you are an even somewhat spontaneous traveller, you might want to ensure you always have at least six months validity left on your passport. In order to do this, I would recommend commencing the renewal either:
- Six months before your next planned trip (as you wouldn’t need more than six months of validity before that trip).
- Seven months before the passport expiry date if you don’t have a trip planned but want to ensure you will always have at least six months validity left for that unexpected last-minute holiday.
You may wish to put a reminder in your phone or calendar for these important dates — the renewal period is just as much as the actual expiry date of your passport. You don’t want to get to check-in and see that while you haven’t reached the expiry date yet, you should have already renewed the passport. Note that time left on your expiring passport will not be added to the expiration date of your renewed passport.
Somewhat frustratingly, you cannot renew a U.K. passport earlier than nine months before its expiry date, which gives you a narrow window before the above key dates start to hit.
How should you renew your passport?
There are two ways to renew your passport — you can either do it online or via a paper application in person at the Post Office. You will need passport photos of yourself for each method — digital photos if you are applying online or physical photos if you are applying in person. Note that there are very strict requirements for both photo types. You can find more information here.
You will need to send it your old passport if you are renewing online (or take it in with you if you are applying in person at the Post Office), though the old (cancelled) passport will be returned to you with your new (renewed) passport.
How much does it cost?
The costs for renewing a U.K. passport vary, depending on whether you are renewing an adult passport or a child passport:
- If you are over 16 at the time of the renewal, it costs £75.50 to renew or replace your passport if you apply online, or £85 if you fill out a paper form.
- If you are under 16 at the time of the renewal, it costs £49 to apply online and £58.50 to apply with a paper form.
You can pay by debit or credit card for either the online or in person application method — you can also pay by cheque if you are applying in person.
The passport renewal will usually take about three weeks to be processed. Unless you have another valid passport (i.e. issued by another country) you will not be able to leave the country during the period the renewal is processing as you will not hold a valid passport.
Remember renewing your passport will give you a new passport number and will usually void any entry visas you have already obtained related to that passport. For example, if you have an ESTA to visit the U.S. tied to your old passport number you will need to obtain a new ESTA with a new passport number.
There is likely to be changes to the UK passport process and rules from 1 January 2021 once the U.K. has fully left the EU, so you may want to do your renewal before this date. Don’t leave it until the last minute!
Featured photo courtesy of Getty Images.
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