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The holidays are coming. You have rented a small villa in Greece with friends. There is sun, swimming in turquoise water, and discovering the local heritage on the agenda. Your luggage is ready. Everything seems fine. But a few days before departure, while you are gathering your travel documents, you look at your passport to discover, bewildered, that it has expired. What should you do? Can you travel to Europe with an expired passport? We will explore this question here.
Stays in the European Union are governed by Directive 2004/38/EC, of April 29, 2004. It is very clear: “Union citizens should have the right to reside in the Member State of reception for a period not exceeding three months without being subject to any condition or to any formality other than the obligation to possess a valid identity card or passport, without prejudice to more favourable treatment applicable to job seekers, according to the case law of the Court of Justice.”
But another, much older text directed a passenger and her son be compensated after a company refused her boarding for a flight to Greece. The Court of Cassation ruled in their favour based on the 1957 Council of Europe treaty which stipulates that nationals of signatory States “may enter the territory of others and leave it by all borders under cover of the ‘one of the documents listed in the annex’. However, “according to the appendix to the European Agreement on the rules governing the movement of persons between the member countries of the Council of Europe [which moreover includes more countries than the EU] , any French person can go to a Member State with a national passport of the French Republic valid or expired for less than five years“, stated the judgment.
There are the same deadlines for Austrians or Belgians. For Germany, again according to the appendix to the text, it is possible to travel to other member countries of the Council of Europe with a passport that expired up to one year ago. For details for each state, go to this page.
As you can see, in the event of a dispute, the law can be on your side. But we still advise you don’t attempt to travel to Europe with an expired passport: it is better to go on vacation with peace of mind and a valid document than to bet on possible compensation. The onboard staff and other customs officers are not lawyers, so you will likely be refused entry into the country.
French identity cards and periods of validity: find out about your destination
A short word, to finish, on the national identity card, which is valid (just like the passport) for traveling within the Schengen area. On January 1, 2014, their period of validity was increased from 10 to 15 years for adults, only this extension was not recognized everywhere in Europe.
Few countries, in fact, officially recognize it: these include Bulgaria, Croatia, Switzerland, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Iceland, Luxembourg, and Malta. Many others have not commented. Finally, some do not recognize it at all: this is the case in Belgium, Lithuania, and Norway.