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7 Dec 2020

Passports after Brexit: Why you may need to renew yours this week for a winter break

passports at the airport

Booking a holiday to beat the January blues? You better check your passport. When the Brexit transition period ends, Brits will need a minimum of six months left on their passports to travel to Schengen Area countries, which applies to most of Europe.

Currently, passport turnaround time is three weeks for online applications, according to the Home Office. And with just over three weeks to go until 1 January, you don't want to get caught out at the airport if you're due to travel immediately in the new year.

To make things more complicated, if you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, any remaining validity (up to nine months) would likely have been added to its expiry date over the usual limit of 10 years. However, any extra months on your passport may not count towards the six months required. This is because Schengen Area countries also require passports to have been issued within the last 10 years on the day of travel.

This means that you could have up to 15 months left on your passport and you'd still be refused entry to Schengen Area countries.

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Schengen Area countries: what are they and where are they located?

There are 26 European countries which are in the Schengen Area. They are countries with mutual borders that have abolished controls between those borders and have a common visa policy.

The countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Can I travel before 1 January on my current passport and return afterwards?

Yes. British passports will continue to be valid until their expiry date for entry to the UK. The rule changes resulting from the end of the transition period only apply for entry to a state where the Schengen Borders Code is applicable.

This means you could travel to France on 31 December with a passport that has just two months' left on its expiry date and return mid-January to the UK without any issues.

Will my EU passport still be valid after the Brexit transition period is over?

Checking in at the airport

Yes. If a passport is printed with the words 'European Union' on the cover and it's burgundy, it is still valid until it expires. But, as explained above, you will need six months left on its expiry date in order to travel to Schengen Area countries.

How can I tell if my passport is valid for travel?

Look at the issue date on the page featuring your photo. It must have been issued no later than nine years and six months ago from the date of travel. It's important you calculate from the day you travel, not from today's date.

An easy way of checking validity if you're not sure, is using the government's passport checker tool.

How long does it take to get a passport and how much does it cost?

The Home Office says the current turnaround time is three weeks. As we approach the January deadline though, there is a chance the wait time could increase, so it's best to be prepared.

It costs £75.50 to renew or replace a passport if you apply online. It costs £85 if you fill in a paper form - and could take longer than three weeks to be issued.