Imagine pulling out your passport right as you prepare for a trip, only to discover that it’s already expired.  As you scramble to figure out just what to do, you might find yourself wondering if you can travel with an expired passport.

Can you travel with an expired passport?

The short answer is “no,” at least not if you’re traveling out of the country. An expired passport is simply not acceptable for international travel. If your passport is expired or is expiring within the next 6 months, you need to renew your passport.

But what about domestic travel? That’s a slightly more difficult question to answer. You’re not required to have a passport to board a domestic flight – at least not yet. However, you do need valid identification to get past the TSA checkpoints.  By definition, an expired passport isn’t valid.

That said, if it’s all you have, you should still bring it if you’re traveling within the United States.  You can get on a domestic flight without valid identification IF you can convince the TSA that you are who you say you are, and an expired passport might help. Just keep in mind that you’re at the mercy of the TSA officers.

However, if you’re traveling internationally, don’t even bother to show up at the airport without a valid passport. Just go ahead and reschedule your flight if you can’t renew in time.

Can you travel to Mexico on an expired passport? What about Canada?

What about our friendly neighbors to the north and south? Years ago, you didn’t need a valid passport to visit Canada or Mexico. But the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a law enacted after 9/11, changed all of that.

Now, a valid passport book is required for air travel to either country, as well as to the Caribbean (except for the US Virgin Islands).

However,  for land and sea travel, the rules are a bit more flexible. Any of the following documents are acceptable for travelers over the age of 16:

  • A valid passport book.
  • A valid passport card.
  • An enhanced driver’s license (currently offered in only a select few states).
  • A Trusted Traveler card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST cards).

Meanwhile, children under 16 can use a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship, as can children under 19 if they’re traveling with a school group, church group or another youth group.

Notice that an “expired passport” isn’t listed as an acceptable ID. Under the law, it isn’t. Here’s where it gets tricky: You may not be asked to present a valid passport to enter Canada and Mexico by land or sea because their laws don’t require it. However, even if you aren’t asked for one when you enter Canada or Mexico, you will be asked on the way back into the US.  If you try to cross into the US with an expired passport, your friendly Customs and Border Patrol officers may require additional verification of your identity and citizenship before they let you back in the country.

For more, see Do You Need a Passport to Go to Mexico? and Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada?

Can you go on a cruise with an expired passport?

It depends on where you’re cruising. If you’re on a closed-loop cruise, one that begins and ends at the same US port, you may have the option of using a driver’s license and a birth certificate if you don’t have a valid passport or passport card.

That said, a valid passport can be a lifesaver if you have an emergency or you need to meet the ship at another port. For more, see Passport Requirements for Cruises.

What happens if you try to travel with an expired passport?

At the Airport

For international flights: Do not pass go, do not try to board your plane.  You probably won’t be allowed on.  In the unlikely event that you do make it on the plane, there’s only one thing waiting for you when it lands: another flight back to the US. Why torture yourself?

For domestic flights: If you have another government-issued picture ID that’s valid, use that. If the only picture ID you have is an expired passport, bring whatever backup documents you can find to prove your identity and let the TSA know when you reach the checkpoint.

Driving to Canada or Mexico

Allow extra time to cross, and understand that the other country may not allow you in on the grounds that you don’t have the proper documents.

When crossing back into the United States, realize that you may be temporarily detained while your identity and citizenship are verified.  An expired passport might help in this process, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get through without issues.

Better yet, just get a new passport or a passport card! It’s the law, and there’s no reason to court trouble just because you might be able to get away with it.

Why your passport may expire sooner than you think

Did you know that many countries require you to have at least 6 months left before the expiration date on your passport in order to enter?  If your passport is expiring in the next year, check our list of passport validity requirements for top destinations to see if you need to renew before traveling.

Above all, don’t risk turning your vacation into a bureaucratic nightmare. Check the expiration date on your passport before you book your trip! If you have a trip coming up in the near future and you notice that your passport is expired, don’t panic.  You can get your passport renewed faster than you might think!

The easiest way to do that is to use a private passport expediting company. Although the State Department offers emergency passport services at regional passport agencies, using an expediter is often more convenient. You don’t have to make an appointment or wait in line. All you have to do is fill out the paperwork for your passport renewal. Then, send it to the expediting company along with all the necessary supporting documents. The expediting company will hand-deliver it to the US Department of State for faster processing. Your new passport can be on its way back to you in as little as 24 hours!

Don’t risk trying to travel on an expired passport. Renew your passport with us today!