What Should I Do about an Expired Passport?

Jerry Morrison

In nearly all cases the first thing you should do about an expired passport is to try and get it renewed, though what this looks like can vary depending on where you are and how long the document has been expired. With very limited exceptions, international travel is not permitted with an expired passport, and many airlines and travel carriers won’t print you a ticket unless you can prove that you have valid credentials. Customs and border patrol agents will typically deny entry to anyone in this circumstance, too. The renewal process is different in different countries, but usually involves a lot of paperwork and typically a new photo. As things can move slowly in many government offices, it’s usually a good idea to get started as early as possible, even before the actual expiration date — particularly if you’re planning to be gone for a long time. Depending on how recent the document is, though, it may still be able to be used for identification, even if it is no longer valid for travel.

An expired passport can often be renewed through the mail or at an embassy.
An expired passport can often be renewed through the mail or at an embassy.

Renewal Options

There are typically three circumstances in which a person would want to get their passport renewed. The first is if the passport has just expired, or is about to expire. People in this category usually have the simplest task ahead of them, since renewal here is usually pretty simple, and is often done almost as a matter of course. It may also be the case that the passport has been expired for a long time, often a year or more. In these circumstances officials may want a bit more information, including documentation explaining why so much time has lapsed. This is usually a precaution against fraud, and the process is often designed to prevent the renewal of passports that have been stolen or forged. Sometimes people in this category have to re-start the entire application process for an entirely new passport.

A passport.
A passport.

People who have lost their passports may also need to file for renewal along with replacement, and this tends to be the most complicated of all. Officials usually want a detailed account of how the document was lost and where, as well as copies of any supporting police reports. Applicants may also be subject to a background check before the renewal is approved, though things are often expedited for travelers who are stranded abroad.

Every U.S. citizen must have a passport to travel internationally.
Every U.S. citizen must have a passport to travel internationally.

Fees and Paperwork Involved

The amount of bureaucratic interaction, expense, and time involved to complete the renewal will vary from country to country. In the U.S., you can usually renew your passport by mail with a simple renewal application and supporting documentation, though in nearly all cases you will have to send your current passport in with the bundle. The renewal process may also be initiated by making an appointment at a regional passport agency, which can be a good option when a valid passport is needed quickly.

Passport photos must be occasionally renewed.
Passport photos must be occasionally renewed.

In most cases you’ll need to get a new photo of yourself to attach with the application, too, even if the old one still looks like you. Sometimes this photo can be taken in a passport office, but it’s a good idea to check the rules in your location because in many places you have to get this done ahead of time. There are usually specifications about how big the photo needs to be and what sort of background color it needs to have.

Thinking About Timing

Renewal may also be something you should be thinking about if your passport is close to expiring, even if it isn’t actually expired yet. Many countries require that travelers’ credentials be valid for up to six months beyond the date of their arrival. If you have international travel plans in the near future, it is important to check the current status of your passport and make sure that it complies with the entry requirements of the destination country. Being denied a boarding pass because of passport restrictions usually means a canceled trip, even if your passport is currently valid. Some countries offer expedited processing of applications or renewals for an additional fee, although evidence of a confirmed travel itinerary might be required to secure this service.

If a passport expires while you are abroad, it’s important that you contact your country's embassy or consulate immediately for assistance. Often, embassies or larger consulates have an online presence that can be used to answer questions in emergency situations. It's usually pretty easy to get a renewal or passport extension, though there may be a delay of several days for processing. Some countries will permit the return of citizens with an expired passport, while others will not. Several countries require a valid passport in order to depart, no matter the citizenship of the traveler.

Use as Identification

In most countries, an expired passport may continue to be used as internal personal identification, or at least as proof of citizenship. This can be useful when doing things like applying for a driver’s license or registering to vote. Issuing authorities will typically return an old passport upon renewal, though it will be marked in some way to indicate that it is no longer valid for travel purposes. Should it contain current visas, in many cases these may continue to be used in conjunction with a valid passport.

If necessary, U.S. citizens have several options for expediting a passport application.
If necessary, U.S. citizens have several options for expediting a passport application.

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Discussion Comments


Does anyone know if there is an expired passport grace period?

My wife and I just went to pick up some renewal passport forms and realized that our passports expired over a year ago. Do you have to do anything different if you need to get a passport renewed long after it has expired?

We are a bit worried now about how to renew our expired passports, as we have a trip coming up next month. We know that getting an entirely new passport takes a lot longer than just a simple renewal. When I last had a passport renewed it only took a week, but the entirely new passport took me nearly a month back in the day.


@animegal - Theoretically you can pretty much renew your passport anytime you want. You just need to pay the fee. When I had to replace an expired passport early I just sent a note saying why I felt I needed it done early and it went through no problem.

As far as expired passport renewal goes in a foreign country, you can generally submit your forms through an American consulate. You just need to check their website and see what you need to bring with you. Usually you can just print forms online and prepare your photos in the country you're visiting. Don't worry about your trip, there is always a way to renew your passport.


If you are thinking about renewing an expired passport, when is the earliest you can get a new one?

I am going to be traveling abroad for a year and while my passport is good for the length of time I will be away, it will definitely dip under that six month mark during my trip. Or, if I can't get it renewed at home super early I am open to doing it abroad. On that note, does anyone know how to renew an expired passport abroad?

I would be willing to renew my passport while traveling if I knew it was going to be an easy process. I don't need to worry about travel visas, as I will be traveling exclusively on tourist entry stamps for the countries I visit.


@robbie21 - I think you're right that it's just an extra form when you're renewing an expired passport that you've lost, but it might depend on how long ago the passport expired and whether you were a kid or an adult. (I assume you mean in the US.)

Another reason not to throw away an expired passport in the US is that it can be used for identification. You can use it to prove citizenship when you're starting a new job instead of showing your driver's license and Social Security card. I bet in most states it can be used for ID to get a driver's license as well, but I don't know.


You should never throw away an expired passport, because when you go to renew your passport, they will want the old one back.

But it is not a crisis if you have lost your expired passport. I think you just have to fill out an extra form. It's more a convenience than anything else.

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