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Can You Travel Internationally with an Expired Passport?

Can You Travel Internationally with an Expired Passport? Man handing passport and boarding pass across a counter.

A valid passport is the primary travel document required for entry into a foreign country. 

This universally accepted proof of identity and citizenship is a must-have for international travelers. But what happens when this crucial document expires before your trip? What if it expires while you’re abroad? Is it still possible to travel with an expired passport? 

In this guide, we delve into the complexities of passport regulations, answer some of the most common questions regarding expired passports, explain the consequences of traveling with an expired passport, and share the steps to take to renew an expired passport fast if you find yourself in such a situation. 

Table of Contents

Is It Possible to Travel Abroad with an Expired Passport?


Over 80% of all countries globally mandate a valid passport for entry. Even if a foreign country does not require it for entry, a valid U.S. passport is required for all American citizens to re-enter the United States.

Therefore, an expired U.S. passport is not considered a valid identification document for international travel.

Can You Travel Abroad by Land or Sea with an Expired U.S. Passport?

The short answer is: No.

Traveling with an expired U.S. passport is not permitted as it’s not recognized as valid identification for travel. This rule applies to all modes of travel, including land, sea, and air.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a temporary policy that allowed U.S. citizens to return from abroad using an expired passport, provided it expired on or after January 1, 2020. However, this policy was discontinued as of July 1, 2022.

It’s important to note that recently expired U.S. passports cannot be used for travel from the United States to an international destination or for any stay longer than an airport connection en route to the United States or a U.S. territory.

Traveling by land to Mexico or Canada requires either a valid passport book, passport card, enhanced driver’s license or any other WHTI-compliant document for entry. The same is true for reentry into the United States.

  • Please see the entry requirements for Mexico and Canada for more detailed information. 

A notable exception is travel by sea, depending on the type of cruise you’re taking

For instance, if you take a closed-loop cruise (starts and ends at the same U.S. port), you can typically exit and enter the U.S. without a U.S. passport. However, you must confirm this exception with the specific cruise you are taking, many cruise lines require guests to carry a valid U.S. passport for certain international ports and travel itineraries. So, while you may be able to board a cruise without a passport, you may be limiting your opportunities to enjoy everything the cruise has to offer.

On the other hand, all open-loop cruises (start in one U.S. port and conclude in a different U.S. port) require a valid U.S. passport with at least 6 months of validity remaining.

If your passport has expired or will do so within the next 6 months, it is advisable to apply for a new passport before planning any international travel no matter how you plan to get there—land, sea, or air.

What Are the Consequences of Traveling Abroad with an Expired U.S. Passport?

Traveling abroad with an expired U.S. passport can lead to serious repercussions. Here are some potential consequences:

  • Travel Limitations: The most direct impact of an expired passport is the restriction it places on international travel. A valid passport is a requirement for entry in more than 80% of countries worldwide.
  • Entry Denial: Attempting to enter a foreign country with an expired passport will likely result in being turned away by immigration officials.
  • Legal Ramifications: International travel with an expired passport can lead to legal consequences. You may be denied entry into your destination country, temporarily held, or subjected to financial penalties. These outcomes can be both costly and time-consuming, potentially disrupting your travel plans and spoiling your trip.
  • Re-entry into the U.S.: Regardless of a foreign country’s entry requirements, all American citizens must possess a valid U.S. passport to re-enter the United States.

If you ever find yourself in an urgent situation abroad and your U.S. passport has expired, contact the local U.S. Consulate or Embassy for help.

If your U.S. passport has expired or is set to expire shortly, you can address your urgent travel needs and get a new U.S. passport or have your U.S. passport renewed quickly through expedited service.

If your U.S. passport has expired or is set to expire within the next 6 months, it is advisable to apply for a new passport before planning any international travel. 

Please be aware that processing times can fluctuate, so it is recommended to apply well ahead of your intended departure date.

When Can an Expired Passport Be Renewed?

You’re eligible to renew your passport via mail at any time, provided your passport fulfills the following conditions:

  • The passport expired less than 15 years ago.
  • The passport is undamaged.
  • The passport is an adult passport, issued when you were 16 years of age or older.

In brief, if you were 16 or older when your passport was issued, you can renew it by mail up to 5 years post-expiration, given the passport isn’t significantly damaged.

Can renew your passport early?

Yes! Even if your current passport hasn’t expired, there are compelling reasons to renew ahead of time:

  • Lengthy passport application processing times could lead to substantial delays when renewing. If you wait until your passport expires, you’ll be unable to travel internationally or apply for a visa until the renewal process is complete.
  • Different countries have varying passport validity rules. This means your valid passport might not permit you to travel to certain destinations. 

For instance, some countries require your passport to have 3 to 6 months of validity remaining for entry. Always check your destination country’s passport validity requirements when you’re planning your trip. 

Could Your Passport Be Invalid Sooner Than You Expected?

The expiration date of a passport is determined from the date it was issued. 

However, the duration of validity can differ based on whether the passport was issued to a minor, an adult, or under emergency circumstances. 

Additionally, the expiration date of a passport can influence its renewal requirements, as many destinations mandate a certain period of remaining validity before permitting entry to a visitor.

Many countries mandate that international visitors have a certain period of validity remaining on their passports before they are granted entry or issued a visa. While some countries require as little as 3 months of validity, a 6-month validity period has become an increasingly popular standard worldwide. 

Please note, for these countries, visitors attempting to travel by plane, train, boat, or across a border with a passport expiring within this validity window will result in denial of passage.

As a result, your passport may not actually be useful for its full 10-year validity depending on where you want to travel. It’s like leasing a car for a year but not being able to drive it for the last few months until the lease is renewed.

Just be aware of these validity rules and check your passport’s expiry before you schedule your trip—you may just need to renew your passport sooner than expected!

Is your U.S. passport expiration date quickly approaching? Here’s How to Get an Emergency Passport Renewal in 72 Hours or Less.

Should You Renew Your Expired Passport or Apply For a New One?

The straight answer is: renew it if you’re eligible

An expired passport loses its validity. It can’t be used for international travel or for applying for a travel visa. So, if your passport has expired and you have plans to travel abroad, it’s crucial to replace it without delay.

The good news is, an expired passport can be renewed for up to 5 years after expiration. After that, you must start the passport process over from the beginning and apply for a new passport.

Travelers with passports that have expired within the past 5 years essentially have two choices: 

  1. Renew the passport by mail or 
  2. Apply for a new passport 

Both options come with their own processes, fees, and timelines.

The optimal choice for you hinges on three considerations:

  1. Your age when your last passport was issued
  2. The amount of time that has elapsed since your passport expired
  3. The urgency of your need for a replacement passport

If you’re in a hurry to get a passport, our suggestion is do not delay. Whether you’re renewing or replacing your expired passport, professional expediting services can secure passports as swiftly as within a day.

If you have the luxury of time, mail in your renewal application, your old passport, and the necessary supporting documents. There’s no need for you to personally visit a passport acceptance facility.

For personalized help with renewal applications or expedited processing services, visit our highest recommended passport courier service.

Does a Child’s Passport Expire?

Yes. All passports issued to minors aged 15 or younger expire after 5 years. Passports issued to minors cannot be renewed.

If your child’s passport has expired, a new child’s passport application must be submitted. 

The process begins with the completion of Form DS-11. Please note that the application should remain unsigned until requested by an agent at a passport application acceptance facility.

Along with the application, proof of U.S. citizenship, which can be the child’s expired passport, and one passport photo must be submitted.

For applicants under the age of 16, both parent(s) or guardian(s) are required to present evidence of their relationship to the minor applicant. They must also present valid personal identification at the time of application and submit a photocopy of the same.

If one parent is unable to be present, the attending parent must submit the absent parent’s notarized Statement of Consent (Form DS-3053).

Frequently Asked Questions from Our Readers

Question: I traveled outside the US and did not realize I had an expired passport. Will I be able to re-enter the US? What do I need to do?

Answer: According to the U.S. Department of State, all American citizens must possess a valid passport in order to exit and re-enter the United States.

Trying to return to the U.S. with an expired passport may result in being denied entrance. It is best to resolve this before your return trip.

You can apply for an emergency renewal at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate general. Click the link below to access a list and find the one nearest you.

U.S. Embassy and Consulate List

Question: I am flying in 2 days to the US from France. I have two passports: French and American. My American passport is expired. Can I travel with my French passport and enter American ground with both my French passport (not expired) and American passport (expired)?

Answer: As an American, you need to enter the United States with a valid U.S. passport. You need to contact the U.S. Embassy in Paris or the closest U.S. consulate for a passport renewal or an alternative travel document.

Question: Hi, my passport expired in September 2019 and my son’s passport expires in June 2021. We are traveling to Canada by land. Are we able to travel and return to the U.S?

Answer: While you will only need proof of U.S. citizenship to enter Canada by land, you will need a valid passport book, passport card, enhanced driver’s license or any other WHTI-compliant document to re-enter the United States.

Question: When I left the US my passport was valid. It expired while I was abroad. But it still proves I’m a US citizen. Why would my own country deny me from coming home?

Answer: Section 215 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states:

Citizens: Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.

8 U.S.C. 1185

You can visit the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate general in order to apply for a passport renewal or, in the case of imminent travel, an emergency passport with limited validity.

Question: I need to travel for an emergency, but my U.S. passport is expired. Can I renew in the country I am traveling to?

Answer: You need a valid U.S. passport to be allowed to depart the United States. You need to apply for expedited renewal at a regional passport agency.

Question: I flew to Mexico due to a family emergency but did not realize my Mexican Passport was expired since February. I still have my green card and valid driver’s license. Will I be denied my entrance back into the United States if I try to fly back?

Answer: The issue may not be with re-entering the United States. You should be able to as long as you can present valid identification with your green card. The issue may be with boarding a flight back to the United States with an expired passport. You need to contact the airline you are flying with to find out if you can fly back without a valid passport book.

Conclusion: Don’t Travel with an Expired Passport

Traveling abroad with an expired U.S. passport is not only impermissible but can also lead to substantial consequences. These can range from travel restrictions and denied entry to potential legal implications.

International travelers, particularly U.S. citizens, must ensure their passports are valid well in advance of any planned trips. This not only facilitates smoother travel but also helps avoid any unforeseen disruptions to your journey.

Remember, an expired passport is not considered a valid identification document for travel. It’s crucial to keep this in mind and take the necessary steps to renew your U.S. passport if it’s nearing its expiration date.

Ultimately, maintaining a valid passport is an essential part of international travel. It’s not just about adhering to international travel regulations, but also about ensuring a hassle-free and enjoyable travel experience.

Key Takeaways

  • A valid passport is essential for international travel, serving as the primary identification document for entry into foreign countries.
  • Traveling with an expired U.S. passport is not allowed and can lead to various consequences, including travel limitations, entry denial, legal issues, and difficulties with re-entry into the United States.
  • Passport renewal eligibility and processes vary based on factors such as age, time elapsed since expiration, and urgency of need.
  • Different countries have varying passport validity rules, with many requiring passports to have several months of validity remaining beyond the intended travel date.
  • It’s crucial to check passport expiration dates well in advance of travel and to apply for renewal early to avoid disruptions or delays in travel plans.
  • In a rush or need help getting your passport? Use a reputable passport expediting service to ensure your application is completed correctly and processed as quickly as possible.
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About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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