Did you renew your passport early? You could risk being turned away from your flight

Apr 26, 2022

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This article has been updated.

If your passport is about to expire, beware: Europe’s custom rules for Brits are a spaghetti bowl of confusion… and if you don’t pay close attention, you could be turned away at the gate. 

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Already, airports have recorded two consecutive record-breaking months for air travel since travel restrictions were lifted – eight times more than this time last year.

But with the new surge in travel reports are now emerging of holidays being ruined by passport rules reintroduced after Britain exited the European Union.

Related: Just how bad is the passport backlog?

Take the Gurd family from Hampshire. Yesterday, they told how they lost £3,000 on a holiday they couldn’t go on because the mother’s passport was deemed to be invalid – despite having renewed it and having an extended expiry date.

Nina Gurd arrived with her family at Birmingham Airport to catch a flight to Portugal’s Algarve on 15 April. 

She knew her passport was close to expiry, so she got in early and renewed it weeks before in 2012, adding nine more months to its validity. The issue date of her passport was 29 May 2012, this would mean her passport was due to expire next month – ten years from issue. However, since she renewed her passport early an additional nine months were added to the usual ten year period, giving it an expiry date of 28 February 2023 — 10 years and nine months from the issue date.

Related: How and when you should renew your passport

But when she arrived at check-in, she was told her passport’s expiry date was irrelevant. Issue date is what she should have watched out for.

“The lady at Bournemouth Airport said it needs to be within 10 years of the issue date,” she told the BBC. “When we were booking our holiday, we were only ever asked for our passport numbers and the expiry dates, nothing else. But the expiry date is apparently meaningless.”

The same happened to Dr Ana Tiganescu, who was sent home by officials at Leeds Airport earlier this month despite having six months left on her passport. The issue: her passport was more than 10 years old.

“This was a huge shock and very distressing for us all – especially my son, who didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to go with them,” Dr Tiganescu told the Mirror at the time. “I was left very upset, in shock, and humiliated, waiting for an unspecified amount of time, almost 2 hours, for a Ryanair steward to escort me back through security.

“This situation was deeply distressing. When I finally made it back out of the airport, I was in such a state that I couldn’t remember my postcode for a taxi home.”

Why the problems?

Prior to September 2018, the U.K. had a policy that allowed credit for “unspent” time when renewing a passport. This could add an additional nine months to a passport’s expiry date, meaning that some passports that were renewed early are set to expire 10 years and nine months after their issue date, rather than the usual 10 years.

Since Brexit, the E.U. told “third-country nationals” (i.e. Brits) that their passports must be no more than 10 years old from the point of issue when they enter mainland Europe. 

On top of that, “third-country” passports should be valid for at least three months after the day of departure.

That means, according to the British government at least, to enter any of the E.U. countries in the “Schengen Area of free movement”, your passport must have been issued no more than nine years and nine months before your departure date.

Related: Should you book your 2023 holiday now to avoid skyrocketing prices?

Here’s how the British Foreign Office explains it:

Your passport must meet 2 requirements. It must be:

  1. less than 10 years old on the day you enter (check the ‘date of issue’)
  2. valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

The rules, however, are bafflingly vague – even the FCO admits that it is “asking the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule”. 

It adds: “Their guidance for Schengen border guards may not be updated until the spring of 2022. Until then, for some Schengen countries, your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the 3 months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.”

Furthermore, this appears to be at odds with the European Union’s advice, which says that those two requirements are independent of each other, and NOT dependent on each other as the British government suggests.

In other words, your passport only needs to be less than ten years old from the day you leave the U.K. That ten-year threshold can expire while you’re away, so long as there are three months left on your passport from the day you come home.

That means you could go to Europe on 1 May 2022 with a passport issued on 2 May 2012 that has an expiry date of 1 November 2022, and stay there until 31 July 2022.

But the truth is, nobody seems able to fully agree on what the rules are. So, to be safe, if you’re unsure about your passport’s validity, it’s best to call your airline before you fly and check the rules they’re going by.

Featured picture by Getty Images.

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