EU Commission changes passport advice for UK travellers

Scene of the harbor of the island with some small boats moored. Livadia, the port and main village of Tilos island with the whitewashed traditional architecture houses and the beach with the crystal clear sea water. Telos is a small Greek Mediterranean island in the Aegean Sea part of the Dodecanese islands with a population of 780 inhabitants near the Turkish coast. In late 2018 Tilos became the first island in the Mediterranean to run exclusively on wind and solar power, a green self-sufficient island, an initiative funded by the EU for green energy from renewable sources protecting the natural environment. Tilos island, Greece on November 17, 2021 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Tilos Island in Greece. The EU has recommended a change in British passport validity. (Getty) (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The European Commission has amended advice and said that UK holidaymakers should not be prevented from boarding some flights if their passport was issued within the previous 10 years at the moment of entry into the Schengen Area.

Since Brexit, British passport holders have been regarded as “non-EU nationals” when entering EU countries in the Schengen Area, which means added stipulations about passport issue and expiry dates.

That means travellers on a British passport must have had it issued within the past 10 years, and be valid for at least three months after the date they intend to leave.

The UK government issues new passports with 10 years validity, but will add on the extra months remaining from the previous passport if it is renewed early.

Some EU countries in the Schengen Area have insisted the passports of those within their borders cannot be more than 10 years old from the point of issue.

When the three-month expiry buffer is taken into account, this means a UK passport can't have been issued more than nine years and nine months previously.

However, with the summer holidays fast approaching for millions of Brits, the European Commission has now said a "more generous interpretation of the rules is possible", according to the BBC.

File photo dated 09/04/22 of passengers check-in in terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport, west London. Holidaymakers are being urged to use unspent vouchers worth �85 million before they lose financial protection. Issue date: Tuesday April 26, 2022.
British holidaymakers could be turned back if their passports are not valid. (Getty) (PA)

In a statement, the Commission said: "Our previous advice was intended to make sure travellers are prepared to comply with the most stringent possible interpretation of the Schengen rules."

Entry should be allowed to those travelling with passports issued within the previous 10 years at the moment of entry into the Schengen Area, it added.

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is a zone in which 26 European countries abolished their borders to establish free and unrestricted movement of people.

Of the 27 EU states, 22 are in the Schengen Agreement, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Watch: Travel in 2022 - what does the rest of the year hold in store?

Some travellers have reported issues on the border as they tried to leave for their holidays.

A family of five were caught up in the confusion and missed their holiday to the Algarve, the BBC reported.

Nina Gurd was heading for a holiday in the Algarve but was denied boarding because her passport, which was due to expire in February 2023, was no longer valid.

Mrs Gurd's passport was issued in May 2012, and had had nine months extra added on because she renewed it early.

But as Portugal is one of the countries which requires a non-EU citizen to have a passport issued within 10 years, so was denied entry, meaning she, her husband and three sons were forced to return home and lose £3,000 on their holiday.

A government spokesperson told The Independent: “The European Commission has explicitly advised us, including in correspondence received [on 10 November 2021], that the conditions of a passport being less than 10 years old and valid for three months post-return date are cumulative.

“We are engaging with the Commission to seek further clarification and, if this is no longer the case, will update our advice in due course.”

It comes as "shambolic" passport delays could also stop Brits from getting their holidays abroad.

There is currently a 10-week waiting list for a new passport, meaning anyone who renews it now could miss a summer abroad over backlogs.

Home Office minister Kevin Foster told MPs the government has no intention of letting the current 10-week processing time slide further.

But the Commons heard of one woman who has waited more than five months to receive her daughter’s new passport, with services branded “either really very good or an absolute shambles”.