Passport expiry dates ‒ what are the rules?

You may have heard recently about the UK airline passenger who was refused travel from Gatwick to Cyprus. Jonathan Rickard, who had eight weeks left on his passport before it expired, missed his friend’s wedding after a mistake by the airline staff. What are the rules when it comes to passport expiry dates and how can you make sure that you are not left stranded or refused travel?

The popular airline held its hands up and admitted an error in Mr Rickard’s case. The advice on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for travel to Cyprus states: “For stays of up to three months, your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.”

According to experts from the European Commission, a valid passport or national ID card should mean EU citizens are clear to cross the border in any EU country. If your passport is due to expire the next day, an ID card could still be used to travel back; however, a visit to the embassy for a new passport would be required for UK citizens who do not hold an ID card. Obviously it is best to plan in advance and avoid this wherever possible.

If you are travelling outside the EU, things can get a little more complicated. Some countries require you to have three or six months validity on your passport before travel. Countries requiring six months validity from the date of entry include Israel, Ecuador, Tunisia, Brazil and Turkey.

Anyone travelling to South Africa should ensure they have a minimum of 30 days validity on their passport from the date of exit from South Africa, and ideally you will also have at least two blank pages in your passport on arrival. Visitors to New Zealand should have a minimum of one month’s validity from the date of exit from the country and will also need an onward ticket.

Some countries can be particular over the number of pages left in your passport and you could find yourself facing a long wait in immigration if you arrive with less than one full page left, despite the fact that there are no hard and fast rules relating to this.

Checking the FCO website on a country-by-country basis before you travel is a good habit to get into, as in this way you can find out the requirements before you jet off.

If you are travelling outside the EU, it is best to err on the side of caution and not cut it fine when it comes to passport renewal.

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