Passport rules for British tourists holidaying in EU

Simon Calder speaks about potential passport issues around striking

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More than 1,000 staff in passport offices across the UK will go on strike for five weeks from the start of April. The move could jeopardise summer holidays for families with the PCS union warning the action will have a “significant impact” on applications. But when do British tourists actually need to renew their passports to travel to the EU?

The announcement of the strikes is expected to trigger Britons to try to renew their passport even if it’s not due to expire in the next few months.

However, travel expert Simon Calder told the BBC that a rush on applications would be “the worst thing that could happen” and urged travellers to only apply if needed.

Passport expiry rules for the EU

Britons travelling to any of the countries within the EU or non-EU countries within the Schengen Zone (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) need to follow a few rules.

Their passport must have been issued less than 10 years before their date of arrival in the EU.

Their passport must expire at least three months after their intended day of departure from the EU.

British tourists cannot travel to the EU or Schengen Zone with a passport that was issued more than 10 years ago. For other destinations such as Australia and the USA, Britons can travel up to their expiry date.

Passport stamping

Britons will need to get their passport stamped on entry and exit from any country within the Schengen Zone.

This is because British tourists and other non-EU citizens are only allowed to stay in the Schengen Zone for 90 out of every 180 days.

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The passport stamps will help border officials to check whether Britons are within the 90-day limit. The EU is planning to introduce an electronic visa system to replace passport stamping but the launch of this has been delayed until 2024.

While these rules apply for all of the countries within the Schengen Zone such as Spain, Portugal and France, a few EU countries aren’t in Schengen.

Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Ireland are not in the Schengen Zone. British tourists can also only stay in Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria for 90 out of every 180 days.

However, 90 days spent in these three countries will not count towards time spent in the Schengen Zone. For example, British tourists could spend 90 days in Cyprus and then another 90 days in Spain or another Schengen Zone country without a visa.

Can British tourists claim on insurance if their new passport is delayed due to the strikes?

Kevin Pratt, travel expert at Forbes Advisor, said: “Unfortunately, it is highly likely that your travel insurance will not provide cover if you do not have a valid passport when you’re due to travel. Insurers say it is the traveller’s responsibility to have all the required paperwork, and they don’t make allowances for the disruption caused by a strike.

“Equally, you won’t have any recourse from your airline if you have to cancel your flight – they’ll tell you the matter is out of their control and, as such, it is not their responsibility.”

I need to renew my passport for a holiday

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of The Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “Our advice to travellers, should they need passports or to renew existing ones, is to action these as soon as possible to minimise any disruption to their travel plans.

“We urge the government and the unions to find a way of dealing with this dispute urgently to ensure that it doesn’t affect British travellers and impact the outbound travel industry.”

Passport rules vary between countries and the best way to check the rules for your destination is on the UK Foreign Office Advice website.

Some countries won’t let tourists cross the border if their passport is damaged or the chip isn’t working. This can also be checked on the UK Foreign Office Advice website.

A Home Office spokesperson has said there are currently no plans to change its guidance that it takes 10 weeks to get a new passport.

The strike could be called off if the two sides are able to reach an agreement on pay and working conditions.

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