Until a few days ago, when you renewed your passport, any time left on your existing document would be added to your new one, up to a maximum of nine months.
But those who have renewed their passports in the past week have been shocked to find this is no longer the case – even though the Government hasn’t announced any change and refused to officially confirm today that it had actually happened.
We’ve seen reports from at least four MoneySavers caught out by the change, and when we rang the Passport Office’s customer service number today we were told a new policy had come in from Monday 10 September and validity is no longer being carried forwards.
The news will come as a particular blow to travellers as some countries require you to have up to six months’ validity left on your passport when visiting. UK passports are usually valid for 10 years, but if you’re travelling to a country which requires you to enter with validity remaining on your passport, you may have no choice but to renew early.
Martin: ‘Doing this under the radar is plain wrong’
Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert founder, said: “The biggest problem with this is many countries do not let you in if you’ve less than six months on your passport. In fact, we’ve heard some stories of people being sent home because a child’s passport is too close to expiry.
“This change of policy will lead many people to renew later so they can scrape out every last month of their passport. But of course that runs the risk of many more people being sent back home. And the fact it looks like the Government has chosen to do this without notifying people and put such a big change in place hoping to sneak it under the radar is plain wrong. They’ve failed to sneak it under the radar – so they’ll probably have to announce it officially now.
“This change affects price, because in effect passports will now only last nine and a half years. But it also runs the risk of more people being sent home, ruining holidays and putting many people in a worrying situation. Also, because of the timing which effectively means this shortening will take place over the Brexit period, it’s likely we’ll see an even bigger build-up of demand before next summer, when there are already long waiting times.
“I don’t know whether this is a decision made by politicians or bureaucrats – but either way it’s a bad decision.”
How have the passport rules changed?
Until last week the rules have stated that when you renew your passport, any time left on your existing passport is added to your new one, up to a maximum of nine months. So if your current passport was due to expire on 1 March 2019, and you renewed it now, your new passport would still expire on 1 March 2029.
But passport applicants have been told this week that that no longer applies and any existing months will be lost if you renew early. So if your current passport was due to expire on 1 March 2019 and you renewed now, your passport would only be valid until September 2028, rather than March 2029.
Bizarrely, the Home Office refused today to confirm that any change has taken place – so we don’t yet have full details of the changes and if there any exceptions to the new rule. It’s understood an official announcement is planned later this week. In the meantime, MSE forumites have spotted that the line on the Government’s website explaining that time remaining on your passport is added on to your new one when you renew appears to have been quietly removed.
‘How can they do this overnight?’
MoneySavers have contacted us today to criticise the sudden nature of the change.
One told us: “I just received my renewed passport – I applied online last week and it arrived saying issued yesterday and expiring 10 September 2028. My old passport didn’t expire till January 2019, so I rang them, thinking it was an error, but was told they are no longer adding on the time that was left on your old passport.
“I’m truly shocked. How can they do that overnight? It’s a nightmare for future applications. Anyone needing visas or travelling to places that insist on six months’ validity will always lose at least six months of passport each time – that’s at least £3 or £4. Let alone having to judge leaving your renewal late but not too late.”
Another MoneySaver, whose passport was due to expire in December but renewed last week, told us: “It’s common knowledge that you can carry forwards nine months, but my passport came on Monday saying it expired on 10 September 2028.
“There was nothing to alert me – but it appears the website has been updated. I would’ve waited till say November if I’d known – it’s a significant waste of a fee.
What does the Home Office say?
The Home Office wouldn’t confirm today that any changes had taken place when we contacted it. But when we rang the Passport Office’s general enquiries number to ask about renewals and whether remaining validity would be carried over, we were told: “We don’t do that any more since 10 September.”
MoneySavingExpert expects further details to be announced later this week.