Travelling to Spain from the UK this summer? Then you’re in good company. Between 2017-2019, the number of British tourists visiting Spain each year exceeded 18 million, and that figure is rapidly growing to pre-pandemic levels once more. However, since the UK made the decision to leave the EU, travelling between the UK and Europe (including Spain) has become a little bit more difficult for travellers. As a result, the UK Foreign Office have issued an immediate update to ensure that British citizens don’t fall foul of new passport validity rules which could have an impact on their trip. Here’s everything you need to know about ensuring that your passport is valid before you travel:
Check the Expiry Date of Your Passport
All international travellers know just how important it is to ensure your passport is valid before you head to the airport: this means checking the expiry date of your passport before you book your trip. But Brexit has slightly complicated what used to be a fairly simple check.
The UK media is full of stories of British travellers arriving at the airport only to be turned away from their flights. This is because their passport expiry dates may, at first glance, appear to be valid but they aren’t adhering to the current rules for travel between the UK and the EU. So what’s going on?
Understanding the Changing Rules
The British Foreign Office has issued an official clarification announcement which explains everything. This advice will impact travel not only to Spain, but to 33 different countries, including those within the Schengen area. Within the Schengen area (including Spain) the UK is considered to be a ‘third country’ and must follow third country rules.
These rules are not unique to British passport holders: they apply to all third country nationals, but Britons are only just experiencing the impact of them. According to the official Foreign Office statement: "If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
"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’)
"You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.
"Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting if you think that your passport does not meet both these requirements. Renew your passport if you need to."
What Does This Mean in Real Terms?
If you update your British passport before it expires (if you change your name after marriage, for example) then the passport office will add some of the time from your old passport to your new one. This means that you passport can be valid for longer than 10 years when looking at the expiration date. But EU rules say that passports that are more than 10 years old cannot be accepted. So, it is important that you look at the issue date of your passport when checking its validity, not just the expiry date.
If you’re going to need a new passport before you travel, you are advised to apply for this as soon as possible. The British government are experiencing a backlog of passport applications as a result of the pandemic, with some prospective travellers waiting up to ten weeks for their new passport to arrive. For this reason, the Foreign Office are advising travellers not to book trips until they are in possession of a valid passport, to avoid disappointment and any unnecessary expense.
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