What will happen to UK passports after Brexit?

From the buzz about blue passports to the loss of free movement within the EU, there is a lot of concern amongst the British public over what is going to happen to our passports when the UK leaves. Brexit is going to happen whether the British government secures a deal by 29th March or not. If there is no deal then it will be a total disaster. However, there are already guidelines in place for the future of UK passports and their use when travelling in the EU. These will apply regardless of a Brexit deal or no Brexit deal. Read this guide to learn about UK passports after Brexit.

Travelling in the EU After Brexit

Currently, as a member of the EU, travellers from the UK only need valid passports to cover the length of their trip. Free movement will continue until 29th March. After that, new rules will apply for UK citizens if they travel within the Schengen Area. This is a block of 26 states in Europe which do not exercise border control at mutual borders. They operate a common visa policy, meaning that the same rules apply for travel to all of the countries in this area. The UK is not a part of the Schengen Area itself, so this will not change when we leave the EU. However, if there is no Brexit deal, then the government is advising people of what to expect.

From 29th March 2019, any UK citizens travelling to countries within the Schengen Area will need to have 6 months remaining before the expiry date on their passport. This is because we will be third-country nationals once the UK is not a member of the EU. In order to be valid for travel in this area, a passport must not be more than 9 years and 6 months old at the time of travelling. For example, if you are travelling on 30th March 2019, then your passport issue date must not be earlier than 1st October 2009. It is your responsibility to make sure that your documents match the validity requirements when you travel. If they don’t, then you could be turned away at the border of the Schengen Area and have to return to the UK at your own expense. This rule affects travel in these countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

This rule will not affect travel to or between Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, or Romania. There will be no change to travel outside of the Schengen Area and outside of the EU for British citizens. You should continue to check entry requirements for each country you intend to travel to while you are planning your travels. If you will be travelling to Ireland, there is a separate Common Travel Area and the arrangements will not change after Brexit. The requirement of 6 months remaining on a passport to access the Schengen Area will apply to passport holders from Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man as well as mainland UK citizens.

From 2021, it is likely that the EU will require UK citizens to apply for travel permits to visit EU member states. These visa waivers will work similarly to the ESTA for travel to the US. They are likely to cost around £6 each and be valid for 3 years, allowing the holder to enter the EU for up to 90 days. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK driving licences may no longer be valid for driving in the EU. You might have to apply for an International Driving Permit if you plan on driving outside of the UK.

New British Passports After Brexit

In 2017, the Immigration Minister made the announcement that British passports will return to being blue after Brexit. They will no longer have to conform to the standards for EU passports, so they will go back to the colour that they had been between 1920 and 1988. For some, this signals a return to a “national identity” for the UK. The colour of the passport seems like a trivial source of pride, but in any case, these passports will not be available until the end of the year. The new design will be ready in October 2019. Until then, any new passports will still be burgundy.

However, from 29th March, new passports will change slightly. Their colour will stay the same, but they will no longer feature references to the European Union. From October 2019, passports will have a different blue and gold design with new security features as well. This includes a polycarbonate photo page, which will be stronger and more difficult to forge or tamper with without destroying it. The new passports will be amongst the most secure and technically advanced in the whole world.

When to Renew Your Passport

You do not need to renew your passport unless it is due to expire. It will be necessary to renew your passport if you want to travel within the Schengen Area but your current passport has or will have less than 6 months before it expires during your travel dates. All UK passports will still be valid for travel anywhere after Brexit, up until their expiry date. The only difference is that we will lose EU membership rights. The cost of getting a passport will stay the same at £75.50 for an adult passport or £49 for a child under-16 passport if you apply online. It takes at least 3 weeks for a passport renewal or 6 weeks for a first-time application to go through. Leave enough time to get your passport before booking travel.

It is important to realize that extra months over 10 years on a passport will not count anymore. Previously, the government would add up to 9 months of extra time onto new passports for early renewals. Passports generally expire after 10 years from the date of issue, but this would transfer up to 9 months from the previous passport onto the new one. However, the government is not doing this anymore. And if you have a passport with more than 10 years between the issue date and expiry date, then you may need to renew it in order to travel in the Schengen Area. You will need to renew your passport if it has been more than 9 years and 6 months since the issue date if you will be travelling in this group of countries after 29th March 2019. Otherwise, check the passport validity requirements for th destination country before you plan a trip.