Up to 3.5million people were today warned to submit their passport renewal by tomorrow to guarantee they can travel in Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the month.
If the UK crashes out of the EU on March 29, everyone will need at least six months left on their passport from the date they arrive on the continent.
Without it, this will mean they could be stopped from travelling or turned back at the border of EU countries including France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy.
The consumer group Which? says this is because Schengen rules require that passports must have at least six months validity on their passport on the day of travel, which relates to around 2million Britons.
But it says this problem has been exacerbated because of recent revelations from the Government that a further 1.5million passport holders with up to 15 months validity could also be turned away.
This group of 3.5million passport holders are being told to renew by the end of Friday to give them a fighting chance of receiving a new one by March 29.
The Passport Office is expected to be inundated with applications from panicked Britons fearing their travel could be disrupted.
3.5million passport-holders are being told to renew by the end of Friday to give them a fighting chance of receiving a new one by March 29
What will happen to passport rules in the event of a no deal Brexit?
The rules for travel to most countries in Europe change if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
After 29 March 2019:
- You should have at least 6 months left on your passport from your date of arrival. This applies to adult and child passports.
- If you renewed a passport before it expired, up to 9 extra months may have been added to your new passport’s expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months that should be remaining for travel to most countries in Europe.
Until recently, UK citizens who renewed their passport before it expired could have up to nine months of the remaining validity added to their new travel document.
The Government has warned that this time carried over will not count towards the six-month requirement after a no-deal Brexit, meaning people with up to 15 months left on their passport could be denied entry to many popular destinations on the continent.
Figures obtained by Which? show that around 3.5 million current British passports will not comply with the validity rules.
The consumer group noted that Friday will be three weeks before the UK is due to withdraw from the EU, which is the time it takes for passports to arrive after a standard renewal application.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel magazine, said: ‘Millions of people could find their holiday plans disrupted or, worse yet, find themselves stranded at the departure gate and prevented from travelling altogether if they fail to renew their passport before the cut-off date.
The UK Passport Office is expecting a burst of applications in the coming days ahead of March 29
Why would passports with up to 15 months validity be affected?
The Government has admitted that any passport holders with up to 15 months validity could also be turned away at an EU border.
This is because of a little known technical issue around the length of time that can be carried over, for someone with a 10 year passport, from a previous passport.
In the past, people could carry over up to nine months, which would mean the passport appears to run for 10 years and nine months.
However, this nine month period will no longer be recognised, which means unless one of these travellers has nine months, plus another six months, to run on their passport, it may be rejected.
While, this might appear to be a small piece of red tape, consumer group Which says this could involve as many as 1.5 million who expect to travel this spring or summer.
‘Anyone who thinks they might be affected should look to renew their passport today or if you already have travel plans in the near future, consider using the fast-track passport renewal service.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘If there is no deal, new rules would apply when travelling on a British passport to many European countries and some people may need to renew their passport earlier than planned.
‘If your passport does not meet the new rules, you should apply for a new passport before travelling to the countries affected.
‘You can use the Government’s online passport checker to check a passport for travel to Europe. We recommend that you renew your passport in good time ahead of your travel date.
‘In January we launched our ongoing campaign to inform the public of these new rules, and we continue to work with partners in the travel and transport industries to inform people with bookings after 29 March 2019.’