Holidaymakers face being prevented from travelling to Spain, Italy and other popular European destinations after a no-deal Brexit unless they renew their passports in the next two days, Which? is warning.
In January, Which? revealed that around 3.5m UK passports will not be accepted for travel to the Schengen zone, 26 European countries that have officially abolished passport control at their mutual borders, from 30 March if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Despite previous advice that just six months of validity would be required on passports, the Government confirmed that any passport holders with up to 15 months validity could be affected, of which 1.5m are expected to travel this spring or summer.
These people risk becoming victims of a loophole that means any time carried over from an old passport at the time of renewal, previously allowed for up to nine months will not be recognised.
Until recently, UK citizens who renewed their passport before it had expired had any remaining validity added to their new passport, meaning a UK passport could be valid for a maximum of 10-years and nine months.
Because Schengen rules require that passports must have at least six months validity on the day of travel and have been renewed within the last ten years, some people with 15 months to run on their travel documents risk being caught out.
If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, UK travellers will have to follow existing rules for visitors from non-EU countries.
Friday 8 March marks exactly three weeks from when the UK is set to leave the EU.
While it should take three weeks for a normal renewed or replaced passport to arrive, the closer Britain gets to a no-deal Brexit on 29 March, the busier the Passport Office is likely to get as more holidaymakers realise, they will need a new passport to travel.
Information for travellers has been patchy, with most Government advice throughout the Brexit process indicating that anyone with six months validity on their passport was likely to be fine to travel.
Airlines have been slow to provide clear advice to their customers.
Which? is urging anyone unsure of their passport status to check the validity of their travel documents before they run out of time to renew.
Anyone who is refused travel because their passport isn’t valid will not be entitled to rebooking, compensation or a refund. They’ll be left completely out of pocket.
Rory Boland, Which? travel Editor said, “Millions of people could find their holiday plans disrupted or worse yet find themselves stranded at the departure gate and prevented from travelling altogether if they fail to renew their passport before the cut-off date.
“Anyone who thinks they might be affected should look to renew their passport today or if you already have travel plans in the near future consider using the fast track passport renewal service.”