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I am an EU citizen living in the UK with indefinite leave to remain. My EU passport expired recently and I seem to have no luck getting an appointment with my embassy in London.

There is the theoretical option to use VFS Global, which seemingly provide visa and passport services on behalf of many governments.

I have never used VFS before but set up an account with them anyway. But try as I might, I am unable to use their online system to set up an appointment. Their booking system keeps erroring out in the process and I can find no UK number to call.

On top of that, I've read a fair share of scathing reviews of VFS Global, so I am not even that hopeful that this will be an expedient, smooth experience anyway.

Strategically placed consulates used to be able to provide passport services for fellow nationals living in the UK, but I am fairly confident that route is no longer available, instead deferring everyone to the embassy in London for anything passport related.

It seems I have exhausted all routes available to me on UK soil.

There are routes available to me back in my country of citizenship. But this requires me to leave the UK and enter France on an expired EU passport. I plan to travel via Eurotunnel and France is not my country of citizenship.

I plan to travel to my country of citizenship in approximately 8 weeks time. But I don't know whether I should go ahead or cancel these plans.

The question is thus:

  • Would UK border control refuse my exit to the EU on an expired EU passport or would they let me go on my way? (possibly warning me that I cannot re-enter on this passport)
  • Would French border control refuse entry to a person in possession of an expired EU passport?
  • Are there supporting documents I could provide on request to help my situation with either border control? For instance; written proof of appointment to renew my passport back in my country of citizenship?
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    Do you have an ID card of your country?
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 17 at 10:05
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    It's extreme to say rules mean nothing, as by their nature they tend to be applied most of the time - if you turn up with valid passport and visa you're very likely to be admitted, while some situations there is greater uncertainty. 90% of the questions here would be valueless if rules were truly arbitrary. (And border agents don't necessarily have 100% discretion particularly with regard to citizens of the country they represent.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 17 at 19:26
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    Many (most?) embassies have the option of emergency passports, intended to travel back home if you have lost your regular passport during foreign travel. Have you explored this option?
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 18 at 6:54
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    @Fattie: you are overgeneralizing. In many countries there are guidelines which should be followed. Discretionary is valid only on grey cases. And border agents are checked and evaluated (in most countries): if one allow too many people which then do not exit legally, the agent will have consequences. And remember that "discriminatory" has effect, so there are limitations (the laws) Commented Jun 18 at 6:56
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    @GiacomoCatenazzi in particular, border officers in EU countries such as France have little to no discretion with respect to the admission of EU citizens such as iwarv.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 18 at 8:09

3 Answers 3

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Would UK border control refuse my exit to the EU on an expired EU passport or would they let me go on my way? (possibly warning me that I cannot re-enter on this passport)

There are no physical exit checks but you do need to submit data about your travel document to the transporter (airline, LeShuttle, ferry operator). The only exceptions I know are Eurostar (where you do talk to a Border Force officer on exit) and the border with Ireland (no document check of any kind).

So in your situation, I would be concerned about issues with that, for example a form that doesn't let you enter a document issued more than 10 years ago or an airline denying boarding out of an abundance of caution (even if a French court decided that was illegal in the context of travel between France and Greece).

Would French border control refuse entry to a person in possession of an expired EU passport?

Based on a 1957 treaty, France should definitely accept the following passport from EU countries:

  • a passport from Austria, Belgium, Spain, or Portugal that expired less than 5 years ago
  • a passport from Germany or Hungary that expired less than one year ago

France would also accept an expired French passport and extends the same privilege to Swiss citizens (based on the same treaty, even long before the bilateral agreements with the EU).

This treaty doesn't cover expired passports from the other EU countries, namely Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, or Sweden. It also doesn't cover passports that expired a long time ago.

Article 5 of directive 2004/38/EC (Freedom of movement directive) does however provide that

Where a Union citizen […] does not have the necessary travel documents or […] the Member State concerned shall, before turning them back, give such persons every reasonable opportunity to obtain the necessary documents or have them brought to them within a reasonable period of time or to corroborate or prove by other means that they are covered by the right of free movement and residence.

So there is some leeway and you are not supposed to automatically be denied entry if you don't have a valid passport. Indeed, an expired passport certainly sounds like a way to “corroborate” that you are in fact covered by the right of free movement and accepting a recently expired document shouldn't be completely out of the question since it's a routine thing in some cases. However, what happens in practice is ultimately up to the border guards and you need to convince a transporter to bring you to the French border for that question to even be relevant.

Are there supporting documents I could provide on request to help my situation with either border control? For instance; written proof of appointment to renew my passport back in my country of citizenship?

None of this is directly relevant but it cannot hurt and might convince border guards that you are not travelling without a passport on a whim. Without a valid passport, an ID card from any EU country would also be enough to enter the EU but you already commented that you do not have one at the moment.

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    One should probably note that even if they let OP in, it is quite possible it will take a bit more time, as I wouldn't be surprised if OP was sent to secondary in this situation (just as a matter of principle rather than for any good reason).
    – jcaron
    Commented Jun 17 at 16:36
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    @Marianne013 That's how it works for Eurostar yes but it seems the OP is considering LeShuttle (from Folkestone, not St Pancras).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 17 at 20:03
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    The five-year list is missing Luxembourg and Switzerland. It probably also should not include France, at least not with the current wording, because with that wording it says that France should accept a recently expired French passport because of the 1957 treaty. I doubt that France is bound by the treaty with respect to its own citizens.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 18 at 8:14
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    @MarkJohnson Article 1 states that “Nationals of the Contracting Parties, whatever their country of residence, may enter or leave the territory of another Party by all frontiers on presentation of one of the documents listed in the Appendix to this Agreement, which is an integral part thereof.” It's only about how other countries are supposed to treat French citizens and how France is supposed to treat the other parties' citizens, as phoog correctly surmised. I edited the answer accordingly.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 18 at 15:51
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    While that's the actual purpose of the treaty, there is however an extra provision allowing the holder of one of these document to “re-enter” the territory of a state party (article 5). Either way, I don't think anybody expressed any doubt that France does accept expired French passports, the point was that they wouldn't do it mainly because they signed a treaty.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 18 at 22:25
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Would French border control refuse entry to a person in possession of an expired EU passport?

Without knowing your citizenship (or when your passport expired), no definite answer can be given.

The PDF link below is the Appendix meantioned in Article 1.

Not all countries allow an expired passport to be used.

Some allow an (up to 1 or 5 years) expired passport to be used.

French border control should consider everything that is listed in the Appendix as valid travel document.

European Agreement on Regulations governing the Movement of Persons between Member States of the Council of Europe
Article 1

  1. Nationals of the Contracting Parties, whatever their country of residence, may enter or leave the territory of another Party by all frontiers on presentation of one of the documents listed in the Appendix to this Agreement, which is an integral part thereof.
  2. The facilities mentioned in paragraph 1 above shall be available only for visits of not more than three months' duration.
    ...

Sources:

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Would UK border control refuse my exit to the EU on an expired EU passport or would they let me go on my way?

AFAIK, when travelling from the UK to France by Eurotunnel, UK Border Force does not carry out routine exit checks. Instead, Eurotunnel collects passengers' travel document information during the booking or check-in process, which it sends electronically to the UK Border Force. French immigration and customs checks both take place before departing from the Eurotunnel Folkestone Terminal, rather than on arrival in France.

Would French border control refuse entry to a person in possession of an expired EU passport?

To enter France as an (non-French) EU citizen you need a valid passport or ID card. If you do not have the necessary travel documents, the authorities can refuse entry, but first they must give you every reasonable opportunity to obtain the necessary documents, or let you prove by other means that you are an EU citizen, within a reasonable period of time. Should you find yourself in this situation, it is your responsibility to prove you are an EU citizen and thus have the right to travel freely in the 27 EU member countries as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

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    If instead of traveling by car OP meant by Eurostar train, in the London terminal they do check passports for departing passengers, at least they did last time I was there.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 17 at 10:12
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    And I suppose that a recently expired EU passport does not count as proof that I am / remain a EU citizen?
    – iwarv
    Commented Jun 17 at 10:12
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    @Willeke definitely Eurotunnel. Or "Le Shuttle" as it is now known.
    – iwarv
    Commented Jun 17 at 10:13
  • @Willeke do they check passports when boarding ferries to France?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Jun 18 at 15:04
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    @JonathanReez, I have not used UK to France ferries in many years, like 20 or so. I have used an UK to NL ferry recently and my passport details were API and the ferry company compared the passport with the information I had send them. I do not remember having seen an UK passport officer on the way out of the UK.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 18 at 16:47

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