According to a 2021 Economist/YouGov poll, only one-third of Americans hold a valid passport. What do you do if you need to travel abroad urgently, but your US passport has expired? You will need to follow the official procedures to be allowed to leave or return to the US.
The first thing to bear in mind is that an expired passport is never considered a valid document and, whatever the case may be, you will need to obtain another travel document.
So, if you are in this situation, read on as we will go over everything you need to know about emergency travel with an expired passport.
Expired passport—what to do
As stated above, if you find yourself with an expired US passport, you won’t be allowed to board a plane with it and, even if you manage to do so, the port authorities at your destination will send you back to the US on the first available flight.
The first thing you should do if you have enough time is to apply for a passport renewal. The processing time will be between 8 (eight) and 11 (eleven) weeks, plus the time needed to mail the document. See more about passport renewal.
In other cases (such as a life or death emergency or to get back into the US), you can obtain an emergency passport that will allow short-term travel outside the country.
In any other situation, US citizens can only fly internationally with a valid passport book.
Passport nearing its expiry date? Get ahead of the game and up to speed by reading:
- Passport Validity for Travel to India [2024 & Beyond]
- Passport Expiration Rules for Mexico: When Can You Travel?
- Can Venezuelans Travel With Expired Passport?
- Can You Travel With a Damaged Passport? [Ultimate Guide]
- Can I Travel if the Names on My Passport and Green Card Don’t Match?
- Lost Expired Passport—What Should You Do?
- Things You Need To Know About Passport Expiration For Minors
Passport expired emergency—different possibilities
Even if the general rule is that travelers cannot travel with an expired passport, there are differences between domestic and international travel, means of transportation (plane, ship, and so on), and countries.
Emergency travel with an expired passport—inside the US
Even for domestic flights, an expired passport will not be considered valid and, therefore, you will not be able to travel with it.
The good news is that you don’t need a passport to travel inside the United States, as many different forms of ID with photos are acceptable. Even if your US passport has expired, you can still board domestic flights with another document, such as a driver’s license.
However starting from May 3 2023, when the Real ID Act takes effect, many documents, such as a regular driver’s license, will no longer be accepted for domestic air travel. Citizens still won’t be required to carry a passport, however, they will need to make sure that the document is considered valid.
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Emergency Passport in NYC – How to Get It
Emergency travel with an expired passport—international travel
If you need to travel outside the US and your passport has expired, there are a few possible scenarios.
If you want to fly back to the US, the only possible solution is to get an emergency passport—an expired passport or any other kind of ID will not be accepted. To obtain this document, US citizens will need to contact the local US Embassy or Consulate. They will require you to provide:
- a 2×2 passport photo
- another form of photo ID
- proof of US citizenship.
Within a couple of hours, you will be issued an emergency passport that will allow to fly back to the US. You can use this emergency travel document only to travel back home as other countries will not consider it valid. Once you are in the US, you should renew your expired passport to be allowed to travel outside the country in the future.
If you need to travel outside the US, the situation is more complex. However, there are a few cases in which a US emergency passport can be issued. In case of life or death emergency in your immediate family outside US, you can request the document allowing you to travel outside the country for 3 (three) business days.
To issue this kind of passport, the Department of State requires applicants to present the following documents:
- a statement from a hospital detailing the nature of the emergency (translated if issued in a foreign language) as proof of emergency;
- proof that your travel will last no more than 3 (three) business days (for example, airline tickets);
- a passport application form with all necessary supporting documents.
You will be able to get an emergency passport in 72 (seventy-two) hours.
If you can wait from 5 (five) to 7 (seven) weeks, you can request an expedited passport without needing to justify your reasons, and pay an additional $60 fee. This way, you will get a regular US passport.
If you need to travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean by land or sea, you will likely not be asked to show your passport on the way in, just a government-issued ID with a photo (e.g. an Enhanced driver’s license, Trusted Traveler card, passport card).
However, if your need to come back without any issues, you will need to present a valid US passport to be allowed to enter the country. If you don’t have one, border officials might choose to detain you until they can prove the citizenship.
However, there are some exceptions for closed-loop cruises (starting and ending in the same US port) that will allow you to take the trip without the need for a passport.
An expired passport—precautions
The first thing you should do to avoid problems with an expired passport is to renew it at least 6 (six) months before the end of its validity. This is a useful practice, especially if you need to travel internationally very often.
To avoid being caught by surprise, you should also keep copies of all the documents that you might need to provide when requesting an emergency passport, such as your birth certificate and any form of government-issued photo ID.
For any passport-related emergency abroad, be sure to note where the nearest US Embassy or Consulate is located and save their information – they will definitely be able to help in most situations.
Professional photos for your emergency passport
If you’re in need of an emergency US passport, time is most likely of the essence to you. Why not save time getting compliant passport photos using a reliable and AI-backed app that’s available on both iOS and Android devices?
Passport Photo Online is a friendly and easy-to-use tool that will help you prepare a perfect photo for your document by:
- removing the background and replacing it with a plain white one if necessary;
- removing any unwanted objects (such as hands or toys in case of children’s photos);
- removing red-eye;
- cropping your photo to the correct dimensions of 2×2 inches;
- AI-scanning your picture for even the smallest errors and letting you know about it immediately.
Each photo is also checked by a human photo expert for extra verification. Passport applicants can opt for a digital photo to be sent to their email or a printed version delivered to their street address. In the unlikely event of the photo not being accepted by the passport agency, you are entitled to a 200% refund from the company.
In this part, we will recap all of the most important information regarding emergency travel with an expired passport.
Can you travel without a passport in an emergency?
No, a passport is required for all international flights. On domestic flights, you are allowed to use other forms of government-issued photo ID. If you need to leave the country and your passport is expired, you will need to apply for an emergency passport, issued only in some cases by the Department of State.
Can I travel with an expired passport to my country?
No, if your passport expired in another country, you will need to request an emergency passport at the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.
Can you travel with a soon-to-expire passport?
For domestic flights, there will be no problem. For international travel, you will need a passport that expires after you reenter your country.
What happens if you travel with an expired passport?
If you attempt to travel with an expired passport, most likely you will not be allowed to board the plane. If you do somehow manage to get to another country, the local authorities will immediately send you back.
What is considered an emergency to travel with an expired passport?
You are never allowed to use an expired passport as a travel document. For a life or death emergency, you can request an emergency passport.
How long does an emergency passport last?
Generally, an emergency passport lasts for 3 (three) business days. If issued by an embassy or consulate, it will only be valid to get back to the US territory.
Emergency travel with an expired passport—summing up
As you can see, an expired passport is never an acceptable travel document. If you have to travel inside the US, you can use a government-issued photo ID to board flights.
For international travel, the only acceptable document is a valid passport book. If it expires, gets lost or is stolen, you will need to obtain an emergency passport.
Karolina’s passion for law, technology and photography led her to PhotoAiD S.A., where for the past 3 years she has been an expert in the implementation of passport photo compliance procedures in +80 countries around the world.