How and when to renew your passport

Jun 25, 2021

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You may know your passport number and 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.

With COVID-19-spurred delays to passport renewals and new processes in place, it’s better to leave yourself more time to renew your passport than not enough. And with travel starting to open up once again, make sure you know when your passport is set to expire so you don’t run into any issues ahead of that much-deserved holiday abroad.

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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:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Most European Union countries
  • U.S.A.

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:

  • China
  • Egypt
  • South Africa
  • Turkey
  • Thailand
(Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG/Getty Images)

The U.K. government passport advice site says renewals can take up to 10 weeks, but I would definitely give yourself a few weeks extra buffer time right now due to possible pandemic-related delays — the sleepless nights aren’t worth it.

Related: Passport Office warns of 10-week wait, advises Britons to apply for new passports now

You may have an existing burgundy-coloured passport but notice your renewed passport comes with a blue cover. This is because of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union – all U.K. passports issued after mid-2020, whether new or renewed, come in blue. Provided your passport is valid, it doesn’t matter which colour is on the cover.

Related: Are burgundy British passports still valid for travel to Europe?

If you are an even somewhat spontaneous traveller, you might want to ensure you always have at least six months of 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); or
  • Nine 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, noting the 10 week renewal times.

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.

Frustratingly, you cannot renew a U.K. passport earlier than nine months before its expiry date, which gives you a fairly narrow window before the above key dates start to hit.

International travelers leave the Customs and Immigration area of Dulles International Airport (IAD) June 29, 2017, outside Washington, DC, in Dulles, Virginia.The US began implementing a ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries, amid fresh controversy about who is exempt: those with "close family relationships" can get visas, but grandparents and grandchildren don't count. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

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 in 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.

Related: How to get a second British 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 standard 34-page passport if you apply online (£85.50 for a 50-page frequent traveller passport), or £85 if you fill out a paper form (£95 for the frequent traveller passport); or
  • If you are under 16 at the time of the renewal, it costs £49 to apply online (£59 for a 50-page frequent traveller passport) and £58.50 to apply with a paper form (£68.50 for the frequent traveller passport).

Remember, British passports will now receive a stamp when they enter a European Union country (unless they live in the EU), so the frequent traveller passport could be a sensible investment if you plan to travel to Europe regularly for business or holidays.

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.

Unless you have another valid passport (i.e. issued by another country), you will not be able to leave the U.K. during the period the renewal is processing as you will not hold a valid passport.

Bottom line

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.

Having a valid passport is essential for international travel so don’t leave your renewal to the last minute and risk ruining your trip!

Featured photo by Peter Titmuss/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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