The Passport Office website crashed yesterday after a warning that millions of holidaymakers could be barred from EU countries by a No Deal Brexit unless they beat today’s renewal deadline.
A surge in applications was triggered by consumer group Which? after it said 3.5million Britons with less than six months left on passports could be stopped from entering multiple European countries this summer – including France, Spain and Italy.
However, those who acted on the advice found the Government website was not working, and were presented with the message: ‘This service is not available. If you don’t want to wait you can apply a different way.’
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘After months of patchy and confusing information about passports from the Government, this late rush in the weeks before Brexit was entirely foreseeable – which makes it even more shocking that people have been let down by an IT glitch.’
The Passport Office website crashed yesterday after a warning that millions of holidaymakers could be barred from EU countries by a No Deal Brexit unless they beat today’s renewal deadline
What will happen to passport rules in the event of a no deal Brexit?
The rules for travel to most countries in Europe change if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
After 29 March 2019:
- You should have at least 6 months left on your passport from your date of arrival. This applies to adult and child passports.
- If you renewed a passport before it expired, up to nine extra months may have been added to your new passport’s expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months that should be remaining for travel to most countries in Europe.
The consumer watchdog announced that around 3.5million UK passports would not be accepted for travel to the Schengen area – 26 European countries which have ended passport control at their mutual borders – from March 30. Schengen rules demand travellers from non-EU countries have at least six months still valid on their passports from the day of travel.
In a further complication, it warned that, until recently, UK citizens who renewed their passport before it expired could have up to nine months of the remaining validity added to their new travel document.
For someone renewing a ten year passport, for example, it would appear to run for ten years and nine months. But any time carried over will not count towards the six-month requirement after a No Deal Brexit – meaning people with up to 15 months left on their passport could be denied entry to many popular destinations on the continent.
The website problem lasted for much of the day, until the Home Office announced at around 4pm that the ‘technical issue’ had been resolved.
A surge in applications was triggered by consumer group Which? after it said 3.5million Britons with less than six months left on passports could be stopped from entering multiple European countries this summer – including France, Spain and Germany (pictured)
A spokesman said last night: ‘There was a technical issue with the HM Passport Office website, which meant that some services were unavailable for a short period. The website is now working as normal.’
The consumer group also drew attention to the threats to Britons’ holiday plans if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, including delays from the introduction of immigration checks.
Mr Boland added: ‘Airports can be chaotic at the best of times, but if additional checks at passport control in Spain, Italy and other popular EU destinations are implemented in the event of a No Deal, it seems that very long queues are going to be an unwanted side effect.
‘You should consider what you may need if you have to fly to them, as it is very likely that you’ll be in a queue for several hours.
‘Make sure you have food, water and essentials for kids like nappies to hand.’
Why would passports with up to 15 months validity be affected?
The Government has admitted that any passport holders with up to 15 months validity could also be turned away at an EU border.
This is because of a little known technical issue around the length of time that can be carried over, for someone with a 10 year passport, from a previous passport.
In the past, people could carry over up to nine months, which would mean the passport appears to run for 10 years and nine months.
However, this nine month period will no longer be recognised, which means unless one of these travellers has nine months, plus another six months, to run on their passport, it may be rejected.
While, this might appear to be a small piece of red tape, consumer group Which says this could involve as many as 1.5 million who expect to travel this spring or summer.