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British travellers have been warned to make sure their passports are valid for travel to continental EU and other Schengen Area countries.

This follows several reported cases of people being turned back by airline staff at boarding gates, most commonly because their UK passport was issued more than 10 years ago. 

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Jo Rhodes, deputy travel editor at Which?, said, “Recently, some travellers have been caught out by EU passport rules, meaning they haven’t been able to go on holiday as planned.

“Your passport must have been issued in the past 10 years at the time of entering the EU. Legally, you’re also required to have at least three months left on your passport at the time you plan on exiting the EU. If you have a holiday planned this summer, check your passport now to make sure it meets all the requirements for your destination, so you don’t risk being turned away at the airport.” 

Rhodes said Which? advises people to travel with at least six months’ validity “to be on the safe side”. Despite the legal requirement being three months, she added, “UK travellers are strongly advised by the European Commission and the UK government to have no less than six months on the end of their passports. This is because some border guards believe that people tend to stay in the EU for longer than they say and so they’re reluctant to grant you entry if you have less than six months.”  

Before Brexit, UK passport holders were able to travel to and from the EU with any valid passport, even if it expired the day after their return. This rule was changed post-Brexit, for travel to all EU countries except for Ireland, as well as to the four Schengen Area associate members: EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The “10-year” confusion arises because previously UK citizens were able to renew their passports before they expired, with the remaining time left (as much as nine months) added to the replacement document’s length of validity. Hence, some passports are valid for 10 years and nine months.

More Convenient Biometric Checks for UK Travellers

Meanwhile, new automated biometric checks are expected to become effective soon at EU borders for all travellers from the United Kingdom.

The European Commission is reportedly willing to accommodate UK government requests to facilitate travel for Britons to the EU. 

According to the Telegraph newspaper, the UK government wants EU member states to follow the examples of Spain and Portugal and allow Britons to enter their territory by using e-gates instead of going through regular checks for third-country travellers.

All UK citizens are currently required to have their passports manually stamped when entering any EU member state, and to go through line checks for non-EU citizens. This can invariably lead to longer waiting times.

While temporary measures might be agreed between the UK and EU this year, any formal agreement about new procedures is not expected to be finalised until implementation of an electronic travel and border authorisation scheme that will replace passport stamping with digital registration of people entering and leaving the Schengen Area. The date for its implementation has been postponed until 2024.

Also in 2024, passengers at Spanish airports will no longer have to empty their carry-on bags at control points.

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