THE UK is finally leaving the EU tomorrow – Friday, January 31.
With Brexit having been delayed for months, there’s been some confusing and contradicting advice about whether Brits need to renew their passports before they travel to Europe.
As the Withdrawal Agreement has now been signed into law, Brits should make sure they know the latest advice before they travel.
Do I need to renew my passport before I travel?
You may have read that you need at least 15 months left on your passport to travel to Europe after Brexit – but this is no longer the case.
The 15 month rule (a minimum of six months of validity plus an extra nine if you’ve had your passport for more than ten years) was only under a No Deal scenario.
As the Withdrawal Agreement has now been ratified, the UK will be entering into a transition period after Brexit.
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The transition period will last between February 1 and December 31, 2020.
During this time, the government will be busy negotiating trade agreements that will shape future policy.
To help ease the transition, a lot of the rules around travel that apply now will continue – one of these is passports.
Instead of 15 months, Brits only need their passport to be valid for the duration of their stay if they’re visiting EU countries during the transition period.
Why do I need 15 months left on my passport?
At the moment, Brits who renew their passport before it’s expired can carry up to nine months over to their new passport.
So a new passport can have the maximum validity of 10 years and nine months.
In a No Deal Brexit scenario, Brits visiting Schengen Area countries, including Spain, France and Greece, will be governed by the same rules as visitors from non-EU countries.
This means that they will need at least six months left on their passport to enter the EU, and their passport must have been issued in the last ten years.
It creates a loophole that makes the extra nine months that were carried over invalid in the Schengen Area.
That’s why Brits who carried over the full nine months when they last renewed would need at least 15 months left on the passport after Brexit – nine months to account for the now-invalid time carried over, plus six months for the required validity.
The Government has a free passport checker that you can use to check whether you need to renew your passport before you travel, which you can find here.
What happens after the transition period?
From January 1, 2021, the transition period will finish, which means new passport rules will apply.
After the transition period, the 15 month rule will come into play again, which means you should double check whether you need a new passport before you travel.
For newer passports, you will need a minimum of six months of validity to travel, while for those with passports that are ten years or older, they will need to have at least 15 months of validity left.
If you’re heading to Ireland, the same rules will apply during and after the transition period – you just need your passport to be valid for the duration of your stay.
Do I need to get a visa before I travel?
Brits don’t need to get a visa to travel to European countries for holidays, during or after the transition period.
However, you’ll only be able to stay in Europe for a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period.
If you’re going to Europe to work or study, you will need to apply for the relevant visa for the country.
The government has a free tool you can use to check if you need to renew your passport before you travel.
British passports are set to be blue rather than burgundy in the future.
Make sure you know the latest Brexit travel advice for EHIC, driving and mobile roaming as well.