The UK government is still providing inaccurate information regarding the validity of children’s passports for travel to the EU, even 32 months after passport expiry rules changed due to Brexit. This misinformation is needlessly putting expensive family holidays at risk. A family from Sheffield was on the verge of canceling their £5,000 cruise to Spain and Portugal because they were repeatedly and incorrectly told that their nine-year-old’s passport had expired. However, after contacting The Independent, their holiday will proceed as planned.
Since January 2021, all British passports must meet two requirements for travel to the European Union: being issued less than 10 years before the date of entry and being valid for at least three months after the intended departure date from the EU. Children’s passports automatically pass the first requirement since they are issued for a maximum of five years and nine months.
Previously, a five-year child’s passport could be extended by up to nine months to carry over unspent time from a previous passport. However, in the summer of 2021, the government’s online “passport checker” falsely stated that children’s passports expire after five years, regardless of any additional time. This incorrect information was brought to The Independent’s attention, and the passport checker was promptly taken down.
Unfortunately, staff at HM Passport Office (HMPO), a part of the Home Office, are still providing incorrect information. The concerned mother had an exchange of emails with HMPO’s customer service staff regarding her nine-year-old’s eligibility to travel to the EU. Despite her daughter’s passport being valid until September 2023, the staff insisted that it had already expired, stating that it would have expired in March 2023 when it was issued in March 2018.
The mother challenged this misinformation, explaining that her daughter had successfully traveled to Europe in May 2023. However, the response from HMPO’s customer service was once again false, claiming that the passport would have already expired in May 2023. Faced with canceling their holiday and losing out on a £5,000 refund, the mother reached out to The Independent for assistance.
The Independent advised her on the correct rules and confirmed that her daughter’s passport was valid for travel to the EU in August. Armed with this information, the mother went back to the HMPO customer service team. At this point, she was informed that HMPO could not advise on passport validity.
The mother expressed her concern, stating that people may choose not to travel based on this advice or incur additional stress and costs to use the fast track passport service. She mentioned that the seven-day fast track option was not feasible for them as they were traveling on Saturday. She emphasized that she would have lost a £5,000 holiday if she had followed HMPO’s incorrect advice.
Holidaymakers who have mistakenly canceled trips or applied unnecessarily for fast-track passports as a result of HMPO’s false information can seek compensation for any financial losses incurred. The Independent has requested an urgent response from the Home Office and confirmation that incorrect information will no longer be provided.