For a non-UK national planing to visit the UK, in most cases you’ll need to have a valid passport on arrival at the UK port of entry.
Where someone is travelling with a passport, they must also ensure that their passport is not due to expire, as they may be refused entry to UK, even if their passport is valid on arrival. This is because there are rules around minimum passport validity to enter Britain.
The following guide for non-UK nationals looks at the rules on both passport validity and expiry issues to avoid any delay or disappointment when passing through border control.
What is the minimum passport validity to enter UK?
Any traveler who is a national from outside the EEA or Switzerland, you must have a valid passport to enter the UK. On arrival in the UK, your passport will be checked to ensure that you are allowed to enter the country, where this should be valid for the entire duration of your planned stay.
EEA and Swiss nationals may be eligible to travel to the UK with a national identity card instead of a passport.
However, other countries have their own rules concerning passport validity and expiration rules. Some countries have in place a comparable rule to the UK, where a passport must be valid for the duration of the stay, while others have what is commonly referred to as the 6-month passport rule, which states that a person’s passport must be valid for another 6 months before they depart for international travel. The 6-month travel period may also commence from either the date of departure or arrival, depending on the country.
For example, for travel from the UK to India, a passport must be valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of entry, while for travel from the UK to New Zealand, a passport should be valid for a minimum of one month from the date of exit.
Even where other countries do not follow the 6-month passport rule, they may still require that a passport is valid for 3 months. For example, for most European countries, it is recommended that the passport expiry date is at least 3 months after the intended day of departure from the EU, although for Northern Cyprus this is 6 months.
As such, it is important for anyone to check the validity of their passport before travelling. Equally, if an individual plans to travel to another country after leaving the UK, before returning to their home country, they should check the passport rules for that destination. At least 6 months remaining validity may be required for onward travel to many other countries. If an individual does not have the required time left remaining on their passport where they are bound for continental Europe or other destinations, at the very least, it may take longer to pass through immigration control, although they may also be refused entry.
Further, in addition to having sufficient time remaining on a passport, to be able to travel to the UK and other countries, a traveller may also need to have blank pages for any entry and exit stamps, where the UK itself requires at least one page. However, where a person wants to travel on, other countries may require more than one page. For example, to travel from the UK to India, a passport must be machine readable, with two blank pages for a visa.
What happens if someone’s passport will expire while in the UK?
If an individual’s passport is due to expire while they are in the UK, where a passport must be valid for the full length of a person’s stay, that person is likely to be denied boarding. If they are able to travel to the UK, it is also likely that they will be refused entry on arrival, where the rules on travelling with a soon-to-be expired passport are strict.
If someone is refused entry to the UK, they will be notified in writing of the reasons for this and whether they can appeal against this decision. They will also be told when they will be removed from the UK, although this will usually be with immediate effect. In some cases, a person may be allowed entry into the UK, for up to one week, although their passport will be taken from them and they must report to immigration officers at prescribed intervals.
What are the requirements for non-UK nationals when entering the UK?
In addition to having a minimum passport validity to enter UK soil, there are various other requirements that must be met, including having a visa where they do not otherwise have the lawful immigration status to enter the UK without one. There is a useful online tool at GOV.UK that can be used to check if someone needs a UK visa and, if so, what type.
An non-UK national may need a visa to come to the UK to either visit, study or work. They may also need a visa to come into or transit through the UK, depending on their nationality. There are two types of transiting: airside and landside. With airside transiting, the person does not pass through UK border control before they leave on their connecting journey, whereas with landside transiting, they do pass through UK border control, but come back through it and leave the UK within a short amount of time, typically 24 hours. A person will always pass through border control if they leave the main airport building for any reason or even if they need to collect their bags and check them in to their onward flight. Depending on the individual’s nationality, they may need a visa for both types of transiting.
If a person needs a visa to come to the UK, this must have been issued before they travel. They will also need a valid passport or other travel document to be able to successfully apply for a visa, ensuring that they have a blank page in their passport for this purpose.
Even for overseas nationals who do not need a visa in advance of travel to come to the UK, ie; non-visa nationals who are visiting the UK for less than 6 months, they may still need in their possession sufficient documentation to satisfy border officials that they are a genuine visitor who will not be undertaking any activities in the UK not permitted under the visitor rules, including paid employment, and that they intend to leave at the end of their stay.
What are the passport requirements for EEA or Swiss citizens?
If a person is from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, they can enter the UK using either a passport, an Irish passport card or an EEA or Swiss-issued national identity card, provided they are eligible to use one. As with other non-UK nationals, their passport or identity card must be valid for the whole stay in the UK. They can travel with a national identity card from an EEA country or Switzerland in the following circumstances:
- they have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) — introduced post-Brexit to enable EEA and Swiss citizens
- already living in the UK to apply for lawful immigration status — or Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man’s settlement schemes
- they have an EUSS family permit, or the equivalent from Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man
- they have a Frontier Worker permit
- they are an S2 Healthcare Visitor
- they are a Swiss national and have a ‘Service Provider from Switzerland’ visa.
If someone has either settled or pre-settled status under the EUSS, the passport or national identity card they are travelling with must be registered on their account with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The same rule in relation to registering their passport or travel document on their UKVI account also applies if they used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity document when applying for a visa to enable them to come to the UK in circumstances where they do not otherwise have lawful immigration status.
Importantly, a person may be delayed at the UK border if their current passport or national identity card is not registered on their UKVI account. They should update their UKVI account if they have changed their passport or national identity card. They should also update their account if they have recently changed their name, address, postal or email address, as well as their mobile phone number. This is so that UKVI has up-to-date contact details if they need to get in touch, for example, in respect of a pending visa application.
It is worth noting that someone cannot change their identity document on their UKVI account if they are waiting for a decision from UKVI on a visa application, although they will need to wait for any visa decision before travelling in and out of the UK in any event.
What are the passport requirements for British citizens?
For British citizens, they can enter the UK with their passport, although if they are travelling from Ireland to Northern Ireland, they will not need any documents to enter.
If a British national is travelling from Ireland to England, Scotland or Wales, a Border Force officer may ask to see proof of that person’s identity and nationality, where they can use any documents that prove this, including a current or expired passport, a copy of their passport, provided this clearly shows their identity and nationality, or documentary proof that they have been given British citizenship, such as a UK citizenship certificate. If they are using an expired passport, it must be recent enough that it is clear that this is theirs.
What can a person expect on arrival at a UK port or airport?
As everyone will need to show a passport or national identity document on arrival in the UK, they must remove this from any holder or wallet and have this ready. They must also remove any face covering or sunglasses. If a person is with their family, they should move through passport control together and have all their passports ready to be checked.
If a person has a British passport, they can use the UK/EEA channel to get their passport checked, as this is often faster than the other channels. At some airports, they can also use automatic ePassport gates if their passport has a chip in it and they are aged 12 or over, where these gates use facial recognition technology to check someone’s identity against the photo in their passport. For travellers aged 12-17, they must be accompanied by an adult.
Equally, if a person is from the EEA or Switzerland, they can use the UK/EEA channel to get their passport or national identity card checked, or use the automatic ePassport gates where available at an airport and they have a passport with a chip. In contrast, if someone is from outside the EEA or Switzerland, their passport, and visa if they have one, will be manually checked at border control. They will also usually be asked why they are coming to the UK.
If a person is from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea or the USA, they can use the UK/EEA immigration lanes and the automatic ePassport gates. However, they must still see a border control officer and get a stamp in their passport if they are entering the UK on a permitted paid engagement or with a Tier 5 Creative or Sporting certificate of sponsorship for up to 3 months and they want to enter without a visa. They cannot get a stamp if they use the ePassport gates where, without a stamp, they will not be allowed to carry out the activities that they came to the UK to do.
In all cases, regardless of nationality, and even if British, those entering the UK should abide by the rules relating to what they bring with them into the UK. What someone can bring will depend on where they are travelling from, where they must declare to customs:
- anything over their duty-free allowance
- banned or restricted goods in the UK
- goods that they plan to sell in the UK
- more than €10,000 in cash, or its equivalent, if they are coming from outside the EU.
Both the individual and their baggage may be checked by customs for anything that must be declared. If someone is stopped and asked about their baggage, they must co-operate. If they are found to be breaking the rules for bringing goods into the UK, those goods may be seized by customs. They may also receive a penalty or, in the case of tobacco or alcohol, where someone has gone over their personal allowance, they may have to pay tax and duty.
Minimum passport validity to enter UK FAQs
Can I leave the UK with 3 months on my passport?
You must check the passport validity period for the country you plan to travel to from the UK. This could be 3 or 6 months from either the date of arrival or departure, or for the duration of your trip.
Can I travel with less than 6 months on my passport?
It is possible to travel with less than 6 months on your passport, depending on which country you are travelling to. To travel to the UK, your passport will need to be valid for the entire duration of your trip.
Last updated: 28 June 2023