How far ahead can you renew a UK passport, bearing in mind new rules after the Brexit transition? H.S.
You can renew a British passport at any time, though currently if you try to do it a long time before its expiry date, the online passport application system (gov.uk/renew-adult-passport) will advise you to put it off due to pressures linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will, however, still allow you to continue if you wish.
The system is also advising that the process is taking around twice as long as the usual three-week target, and to renew your passport only if it is essential. Applying from France online costs €86, plus a €19.86 courier fee.
British passports last 10 years and in the past, if you renewed early, you could have up to nine months of extra validity time added to the passport. This changed in 2018 as part of Brexit preparations and now there is no extra time given, so if you renew early, any time left to run is lost.
From the end of the transition period, the UK will completely leave the EU’s single market, so passport validity rules for travel in the EU will change. Currently, you can travel as long as the passport will not have passed its expiry date before you return from your European trip. When the UK is fully a third country to the EU, the following two extra points will apply.
Find your Brexit questions answered in our help guide: Brexit and Britons in France 2020
First, if you are travelling into the Schengen area (including France) from the UK, on the day you travel your passport must be less than 10 years old – that is, the issue date printed on it must be less than 10 years ago. If you previously had extra time added under the UK’s old rules, that extra time does not count. This is thought to be the reason why the UK stopped the practice for passports issued recently.
Secondly, the passport must have at least six months left to run on it. The UK government says there is a risk that any “extra” added time may also not be deemed acceptable for this. So, for example, if travelling on January 1, 2021, it should have an issue date of no later than July 1, 2011, ie. it should not have been issued more than nine and a half years ago to be sure of not falling foul of the rules for third-country travellers.
Bearing in mind that British visitors will not be allowed to spend more than three months consecutively in the Schengen area (including France), there must be three months left to run on the passport at the point when you go home. So, if you plan to travel early next year and risk not meeting the rules, you should renew as soon as possible.