News & Insights

British Passports Post-Brexit

The potential pitfalls British passport holders should watch out for when travelling to Europe.

Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, there are two primary issues that British passport holders have encountered when travelling to Europe.

EU Entry Rules for Third Country Citizens

Firstly, since 1 October 2021, British citizens travelling to Schengen Area destinations must make sure that their passports meet the EU’s entry rules for third country citizens, which require that the passport:

  • be no older than ten years; and
  • be valid for a period of at least three months,

on the date that the traveller intends to leave the EU.

These rules have caused some confusion for UK travellers. British passports are issued with ten years of validity plus any months of validity left over from the previous passport; as a result, it is possible for British passports to remain valid even when they are older than ten years. Now that British citizens are third country citizens for EU rule purposes, this quirk clashes with the EU rule that passports be no older than ten years. As a result, some British citizens, unaware of the EU rules, have been denied access to Schengen Area countries due to the age of their passport.

As for the three-month rule, British travellers are advised to ensure that, on the day they plan to return from the EU, their passport will have at least six months of validity remaining. This is because third country citizens, who are eligible to remain in the Schengen Area visa-free for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, often stay beyond their intended departure date, according to border guards. Taking the six-month precaution is therefore the safest option for British travellers, who may otherwise have to leave the Schengen Area earlier than they would like or risk trouble at the border on their departure.

British citizens with passports at risk of violating either of these rules are advised to have their passport renewed well in advance of travel, as passport renewal takes about ten weeks.

Stamping of Passports

Secondly, following the UK’s exit from the European Union, all British passports now need to be stamped at the ports of entry and exit. It is to be expected that some British citizens would not be aware of this change, and it is unlikely that their lack of knowledge in this regard would cause any problems. What is more concerning is that some EU border guards are still failing to stamp British passports, putting British travellers at risk of fines. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has duly advised that British citizens ensure that their passports are being stamped on entry to and exit from the Schengen Area.

Other Things to Remember

To avoid potential holiday blues, we would also recommend that British citizens travelling to the EU bring:

  • Their European Health Insurance Card or Global Health Insurance Card
  • Proof of travel insurance
  • Proof of financial means to support the complete duration of their stay
  • Proof of accommodation for the complete duration of their stay
  • A return or onward ticket

If you have any queries regarding the impact of Brexit on travel to and from the EU, please get in touch with the immigration team at FSP at: [email protected]