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Updated: 13 May 2022

What are the passport validity rules for travelling to Europe now?

Travelling to an EU country and unsure whether you're due a passport renewal? We unpack the rules

Following Brexit, the EU now classes the UK as a third country. This means the rules that British passport holders need to follow when travelling to EU countries are slightly different. We’ve answered all of your frequently asked questions about passport validity below.

Remember the destination country always holds the authority to permit or deny entry, so make sure you meet their passport requirements before booking a trip. You can find that information either on the FCDO website or the destination country’s official government website.

If you do need a new passport to travel, make sure you book your holiday with enough time to get it renewed. The current wait time is 10 weeks. If you don’t receive your new passport in time, you will not be able to travel. For this reason, we recommend booking your trip as a package holiday, with a provider that offers good flexibility. That way, if you do encounter any issues getting your new passport, you may be able to rearrange the trip.

Have peace of mind on your next holiday to Europe by booking with a Which? Recommended Provider: Hays, Jet2, Kuoni, TrailfindersSaga

Do I need a visa to travel to Europe as a tourist post-Brexit?

No. Tourists do not need a visa for short visits to the Schengen Zone. You can stay in the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days within a 180-day period as a British passport holder. This means that you can visit as many Schengen countries as you like as long as you don’t exceed 90 days in total within 180 days. However, there are some exceptions to this: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania have their own individual 90-day limits, which means if you travel to one of these countries, it doesn’t count towards the 90-day limit for the remaining Schengen states, which have a collaborative 90-day limit.  

UK travellers must complete an ETIAS application from late 2022

From the end of 2022, UK passport holders wishing to visit the Schengen Zone will need to obtain an electronic travel authorisation known as an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). This is not a visa application. This system merely keeps track of visitors who aren’t in the EU but are allowed to visit visa-free. 

Find out more about the ETIAS on the Schengen Visa Info website

Is my passport valid to enter the EU?

To enter the EU on a British passport, it needs to meet two criteria.

  • It must have been issued in the past 10 years at the time of entry. 
  • It must be valid for at least three months on the date that you exit the EU.

While these rules look simple enough, they’ve been open to various interpretations, which has led to some passengers being turned away at the airport.

My passport was issued over 10 years ago – can I enter the EU?

No. Some passengers have been caught out at airports because their passports were issued more than 10 years ago. Up until 2018, the UK government allowed for unspent time on passports to be added to the new passport when renewing, meaning some UK passports are valid for more than 10 years. This wouldn’t have mattered while the UK was in the EU, but now that it’s classed as a third country, you will be denied entry if your passport issue date was more than 10 years ago. 

In other cases, airlines or border control were applying the strictest interpretation of the EU’s passport validity rules after the FCDO advised that the passport in question may need to be no more than nine years and nine months old, as they’re counting the three months before expiry as part of that 10 years. 

There’s also been some confusion around whether the passport needs to have been issued within 10 years at the time of entering or exiting the EU country. The EU Commission said in April 2022 that a more relaxed approach to the rules could be adopted and instead of insisting the passport needs to be less than 10 years old throughout the entire stay in the EU, it needs to be less than 10 years old at the point of entry. However, this can be down to individual countries, so it's best to check the destination’s rules before booking your trip. 

The FCDO has now updated its advice to align with the EU advice (above) and avoid any further confusion. 

Do I need to have three months or six months left on my passport?

Until further clarification is given by the EU, we advise travelling with at least six months left on your passport if you can, to be on the safe side. Legally, you are required to have at least three months left on your passport at the time you plan on exiting the EU. 

Some Schengen Zone countries are asking for at least six months and sometimes, it may simply come down to the discretion of the border guard. Despite the legal requirement being three months, UK travellers are strongly advised by the European Commission and the UK government to have no less than six months on the end of their passports. 

This is because some border guards believe that people tend to stay in the EU for longer than they say and so they’re reluctant to grant you entry if you have less than six months. Again, the destination country has the legal authority to grant or deny entry, so always check their latest foreign travel advice before booking your trip.

What about travelling to Ireland?

British passport holders can travel to Ireland exactly as they did before Brexit. The 90/180-day rule does not apply and the previous passport validity rules stand.

What can I do if I’m denied entry due to my passport being invalid?

If you’re denied entry because your passport is not valid, you might be able to reschedule your flights and/or holiday if your provider has flexible booking policies. Ultimately, it’s the passenger’s responsibility to make sure their passport is valid to travel, and you can’t usually claim compensation if you are turned away at the airport for this. 

However, if you suspect the airline has wrongfully denied you boarding due to a misinterpretation of the EU’s passport rules, you may be entitled to compensation if you can prove that to be the case.