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How long will it take to renew my passport? Everything you need to know to before travelling

passport
According to the Home Office, holidaymakers should allow three weeks to receive their new passports - Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

Your bag is packed, your car hire is booked  – but what about your passport? A last-minute renewal can be extremely stressful, especially as many destinations require three or even six months of validity left on a passport before departure.

Here we run through everything you need to know about applying for a new passport, from costs to waiting times, what to do if you need a new document urgently, plus EU validity rules.

How long will it take to receive my new passport?

According to the Home Office, holidaymakers should allow three weeks to receive their new passports.

However, be aware that it could take longer than this timeframe, especially if more information or an interview is required. The Passport Office will inform you of any delays within three weeks.

Be warned: the situation could change with little warning. Sudden surges in demand can impact processing times, which has led to severe delays in previous years as the summer holidays approached. Check the Home Office website for the most up-to-date timeframes.

Woman backpacker holding passport and map with suitcase standing at check in baggage at airport terminal,traveler concept.
When it comes to passports, there are a range of issues that might delay boarding – or getting home - Weedezign/iStockphoto

How can I get a passport quickly?

If you do need a passport urgently, there are two ways: use the one-week fast-track service or the even faster premium online service.

The fast-track service costs £155 for an adult passport and £126 for a child. It can be used for renewals, changing details such as your name, replacing a lost, damaged or stolen passport or applying for a first passport for a child.

The service cannot be accessed online and you must fill in a paper application form, which can be obtained at the Post Office. Confusingly, once you have the paper form you must book an appointment online, to which you will need to bring two passport photos, your form and supporting documents in order for your passport to be approved.

The online premium service is simpler and more speedy but costs a hefty £193.50 (or £204.50 for a 50-page frequent traveller passport). Furthermore, it can only be used to renew adult passports and not to replace lost or damaged documents.

Applications can be completed online and you will be required to book an appointment at a passport centre where you will receive your new document. The earliest you can get an appointment is two days from when you apply.

It is possible to ring up in an attempt to expedite your document, but for this to be authorised you would have to outline special circumstances such as a sudden bereavement. The number to call is 0300 222 0000.

Is it quicker to renew my passport online?

It is likely quicker, easier and cheaper to renew your passport online. You’ll need to complete the online application form on the Home Office website, upload a digital photo, and pay the fee using a debit or credit card. 

To apply by post, ask for a passport renewal form at a Post Office that has a “Check and Send service”, or call the Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000.

Do I need to send my old passport back when renewing?

Yes, when renewing your passport, you need to return the old one. This allows the Passport Office to verify your details. 

If your passport has been lost, you’ll need to order a replacement rather than a renewed passport. You can apply for a replacement passport on the Home Office website.

How much does a standard passport renewal cost?

The fee for a standard online application for adults made from within the UK is £82.50, while the cost of postal applications is £93. From April 11, the price will increase to £88.50 for online applications, and £100 for postal applications. Expect to pay a higher fee for express renewals and passports with extra pages – find full details on the Home Office website.

What is the EU 10-year passport validity rule?

A new passport, for an adult, is typically valid for 10 years. However, if the passport is renewed with months remaining on the old passport, these are added on – meaning some people have passports valid for over 10 years. Countries in the Schengen area explicitly use the date the passport was first issued as the ‘starting’ point, and so passports might be classed as expired. Put simply: if your passport was issued on November 1 2013, you cannot enter the EU post-November 2 2023, regardless of the expiry date on the document itself.

Rhys Jones, a manager at aviation website Head for Points, believes that holiday companies have a responsibility to remind passengers of these rules. “I think providers have a big opportunity to make life easier for a lot of people,” he says, “especially as people continue to go on their first trips after the pandemic. These people might find themselves getting caught out.”

Is the expiration date the last day I can travel on my passport?

The date of expiry, one might assume, indicates the final day one can travel with a passport. Not so. In many countries, like Canada, Egypt, Kenya, Thailand and Vietnam, there needs to be at least six months of validity left on the passport before departure. All countries in the Schengen agreement – including France, Spain and Italy – require three months validity after leaving. It catches out countless passengers a year and, while it is listed on Foreign Office’s individual country advice pages, remains little-known.

Can I travel if my passport is damaged?

In our well-travelled world, it’s relatively easy to end up with a less-than-pristine passport. Bashed edges might be excused by the more liberal of border guards, but ripped pages, or scuffed sides, could be enough to impact travel. In fact, a Telegraph Travel reader found themselves unable to go on an £8,000 holiday due to a tear in their passport – despite the fact that it was caused, they said, by BA’s self check-in scanners.

According to the Passport Office, the document must be replaced if “it has more than reasonable wear and tear because you may not be allowed to travel with it.” Examples of “damage” include ink spillages, missing or detached pages, or discolouration.

Can stamps make my passport invalid?

Then there are the stamps. Once the pride of the well-travelled holidaymaker, they were then relegated to something only needed in far-flung destinations. Then Brexit came along, and stamps returned, common for both EU countries and those across the world. While the aloof border guard might not seem too interested in your previous travels, they can have a profound impact on the places you can gain entry to.

In fact, having certain stamps in one’s passport can inadvertently invoke the wrath of international diplomatic issues. When President Trump left office, he placed restrictions on travellers who have been to Cuba by adding the island to a list of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ alongside North Korea, Iran and Syria. It means that those who have been to Cuba since the decision can no longer officially travel to the US under the Esta visa-waiver scheme. Instead, they must apply for a B-2 visa in order to visit the States, a much more lengthy – and expensive – process.

Rhys Jones notes that issues can appear regardless of a traveller’s best intentions. “I was in Malaysia recently,” he says. “Somehow, the border guard had written the wrong date on my entry stamp, which caused a huge issue when I was trying to leave the country.” Eventually, immigration officials managed to rectify the problem, but it has made him more vigilant. “It’s easy to be caught out even when it’s not your fault,” he says.

Passport being stamped
Having certain stamps in one's passport can inadvertently invoke the wrath of international diplomatic issues - Getty/iStockphoto

Stamps are not just a matter of border control, however. The momentary glee that comes from getting a novelty stamp – like those from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll, or Machu Picchu – can cause headaches at the border. In 2020, a tourist with the latter was denied boarding on a plane to Thailand, as she was told it invalidated her passport. It’s a cautionary tale, and one to remember before getting a memento from the gift shop.

The proliferation of stamps also means that it is easy for frequent travellers to run out of space. Entry and exit marks for every European nation has been a striking change for the traveller. And while the introduction of electronic gates (and possibly biometric passports) are likely to remove the worry in the future, travellers who currently cross borders regularly could quite easily run out of pages. That’s a problem in itself, as the cost of a new adult passport starts at £82.50, and those with extra pages cost even more. But some countries, like South Africa, require tourists who are entering with visas to have two blank pages in them, meaning a replacement might be needed long before the space is filled.

This story was first published in February 2023 and has been revised and updated.