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What are the EU rules on passport validity periods?

The European Commission outlines three criteria for people coming into the bloc

We look at the passport validity rules for trips into the Schengen zone Pic: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock

Reader Question: Could you please confirm that my passport is legal and valid in Europe. I have been told that UK passports need to be less than 10 years, mine is 10 years and six months.

It is possible to have a UK passport which is over 10 years old 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 issued before this date can 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.

However, the European Commission states that people entering the Schengen zone must carry with them a passport: 

  • With at least two empty pages 

  • Issued within the last 10 years 

  • Which is valid for at least three months beyond the date on which you intend to leave the Schengen territory.

Therefore, your passport cannot be used for travel within the bloc. 

The rules have now also been clarified on the UK government website, which states: 

“Your passport must be:

  • Issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)

  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’).”

If you have a passport which is less than 10 years old at the time of departure, but which has extra months added and reaches its 10th anniversary while you are in Europe, you can still travel. 

For example, if your passport is nine years and 11 months old and has an extra nine months added, you may enter the Schengen zone and stay for your full 90-day visa-free allowance even though your passport will reach the 10-year mark during your stay. 

This is because the passport was under 10 years old when you departed for the Schengen country, and will have more than three months validity left when you leave.

This point has caused some confusion in recent months, with travel companies refusing some passengers boarding because their passports will reach the 10-year point while they are away. 

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