Passports are only good for 10 years and then they have to be renewed. Or you may be a frequent enough traveler that you run out of pages for stamps and get a new passport more often. Whatever the case, if you’ve been traveling internationally as an adult for more than ten years, chances are good that you have an old, expired passport.
Have you ever wondered what you’re supposed to do with it? Are you supposed to throw it out? CAN you throw it out? Does it serve any purpose? Here’s what I found out…
You can throw it out…or not
There’s no law or rules that says what you “must” do with your old passport(s). You can keep it if you’d like, or you can get rid of it; it’s totally up to you.
Why it’s good to keep your expired passport:
- Your visas may still be valid
Even though your passport is expired, other countries may still accept the visas you obtained before your passport expired. So when you travel to another country, you will probably want to check the country’s rules for entry. Some might accept a new passport and an old visa, while others may require copies of old visas, along with possession of a new visa.
- And speaking of visas…
When applying for visas, some applications require you to detail all of the countries you’ve visited over the past five to 10 years. Assuming you have stamps from everywhere, you have your list right there in your old passport!
- Identity confirmation
Even though your old passport is no longer valid, it can still prove that you are who you say you are. To get that original passport, you already had to submit your birth certificate, social security card, and driver’s license to the government. Should you lose your driver’s license, you may be able to present your old passport to the Department of Motor Vehicles as proof of your identity. This could potentially save you time at the DVM office because you already submitted the required documents to receive the passport. The state could then hopefully process your new driver’s license more quickly.
- It proves your citizenship
This is probably the most important reason. The U.S. State Department recommends on its website that you keep your passport because “it is considered proof of your U.S. citizenship.” So yeah, maybe have it around, just in case.
- All the stamps!
To be honest, that’s the main reason I keep my old passports – all those stamps tell a story of where I’ve been and when I was there. That’s my own, personal history of adventures…I wouldn’t ever want to throw that out!
If you decide to throw it out:
Expired U.S. passports are punched with holes to show it’s expired and no longer in use. However, identity theft runs rampant and if your old passport wound up in the wrong hands, it could be doctored into a fake ID for someone else. So if you’re going to toss it, make sure it’s absolutely destroyed and illegible, with the electronic chip made unusable, before it’s tossed.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary