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Post-Brexit passport rule confusion affects British travellers to EU

People have been refused boarding as their passport is more than nine years and nine months old even though it has an extended validity period

An image of two UK passports, one on top of the other

Several British people travelling to Europe have been wrongly turned away by airlines this week because although their passport was issued more than nine years and nine months ago it still has more than three months’ validity as it had been extended Pic: Ink Drop / Shutterstock

Several British people travelling to Europe for holidays have been wrongly turned away by airlines this week because their passport was issued more than nine years and nine months ago, but still has more than three months’ validity because it had been extended. 

As yet there have been no reports of this happening to UK-France travellers, but as this issue relates to European Union rules, people setting off for breaks across the Channel could potentially be affected. 

If you have experienced issues when travelling between the UK and France using a passport with an extended validity period, please share your experiences by emailing news@connexionfrance.com

It is possible to have a passport which is still valid but which was issued more than 10 years ago because, before September 2018, the UK had a policy of crediting passport-holders for ‘unspent time’ on their previous passports. 

This meant that the documents could be valid for up to 10 years and nine months. In this way, for example, a passport issued on July 24, 2012 could have an expiry date of April 24, 2023.

Before Brexit this had not posed a problem for travel in Europe but when the UK left the EU it became subject to the bloc’s rules for third country nationals. 

The European Commission states that: “If you are a non-EU national wishing to visit or travel within the EU” to countries including France, “you will need a passport: 

  • Valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting,
  • Which was issued within the previous 10 years”

However, the Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs Department has told The Independent that: “Entry should be allowed to those travelling with passports issued within the previous 10 years at the moment of entry into the Schengen area.

“The condition that the passport must have been issued within the previous 10 years does not extend for the duration of the intended stay. It is enough that the condition is fulfilled at the moment of entry.” 

This means that the passport only has to be less than 10 years old when you travel to an EU country, and not for the whole length of your stay.

So technically you should not necessarily need a passport issued nine years and nine months ago in order to be able to travel to a Schengen country, but could instead have a passport which is nine years and 11 months old, but which has been extended.

It appears that issues have been caused because of conflicting advice on the UK government website, which reads: “for some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the three months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.”

The reference to the issue date would suggest that your passport does indeed need to be less than nine years and nine months old when you travel. 

The UK government has now stated: “We are asking the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule,” but this confusion over the rules has caused issues for several British travellers to Europe over the Easter period.

This was the case for Nina Gurd, who was travelling to Portugal with her family this month, the BBC reports.

Ms Gurd’s passport expires in February 2023, but was issued on May 29, 2012. She was told by Ryanair that given the original expiry date, without counting the extension, it did not really have more than three months of validity left.

The family were therefore refused boarding at the airport and lost £3,000 on their holiday. 

The European Commission later told the BBC that the family should not have been turned away, saying that a “more generous interpretation of the rules is possible.”

The Connexion contacted the UK Foreign Office to ask if they have received any further update from the European Commission on the rules. A spokesperson said that requirements for entry into the EU were the responsibility of member states and that: "The UK Government is in contact with the European Commission to clarify its rules of entry for British passport holders.

"FCDO travel advice will continue to be updated in line with any updates to their border guards handbook. Airlines are expected to follow official guidance provided by states on their entry requirements."

Do EU rules take precedence over UK advice? 

It is the rules in place in the destination country which count meaning that the European Commission information detailed above should be followed by airlines.

At least one British holiday company, Tui, has recently changed its policy to match EU advice, saying: “Customers will not be denied boarding on the basis that their passport needs to meet both conditions [three months validity and 10 years of age] dependently.”

What do UK-France travel companies say? 

In its information for passengers, Ryanair states: “You can check visa and passport requirements by contacting the Consulate or Embassy of the country you are planning to visit.

“All non-EU passport-holders travelling into a Schengen member country are obliged to ensure that their passport is valid for at least three months from the date of their departure [for] the Schengen member country.”

In response to Ms Gurd’s experience, the airline commented: "Ryanair complies with all European Commission travel regulations and passengers travelling between the EU and the UK after the end of the transition period must have a passport that is not valid for more than 10 years."

The Connexion has contacted Ryanair to determine whether it will continue to turn people away if their passports are more than nine years and nine months old. 

British Airways follows the UK government’s advice; we have asked for clarification on its exact rules. 

EasyJet state that passports must be less than 10 years old on the day of travel and must have three months' validity left after the end of the intended stay, in line with EU advice. A spokesperson told The Connexion: "We have recently made some changes to the wording on the guidance provided on our website and to ground crew, to ensure this is clear and so avoids this being misinterpreted."

Irish Ferries states that UK passport-holders travelling to France should have a passport with “at least six months validity left, and be less than 10 years old (even if it has six months or more left).”

Brittany Ferries’ advice is in line with that of the European Commission, stating that the passport must be less than 10 years old on the day you enter the EU and be valid for at least three months after the day you plan to leave.

We have also asked DFDS for information on their policy.

Eurostar also follows the European Commission advice, but Eurotunnel follows UK government advice, we have contacted them for further details. 

What if I do get turned away? 

If an airline wrongly denies you boarding when you are travelling to an EU country such as France you should be entitled to denied boarding compensation. 

This will either total £220 or £350, depending on the length of the flight, plus added costs, perhaps in relation to booking an alternative flight or for non-refundable car rental.

Have you encountered any issues travelling from the UK to France using a passport with an extended validity period? Please share your experiences by emailing news@connexionfrance.com. Thank you! 

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