Why You Should Never Throw Out an Expired Passport

It might seem that an expired passport doesn’t have any real use once you get a new one, but it actually does. Here’s why you should never just throw them in the trash.

After you’ve had your passport for a certain number of years, the U.S. Government requires you to renew it. But expired passports shouldn’t be treated the same as expired coupons or food and just thrown in the trash. Expired passports can actually come in handy, even after you’ve already ordered a new one.

“Overall, I think people assume it’s a good idea to shred or destroy your old passport, similar to the way you cut up your old credit card when you get a new one,” says Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified.com, a top background checking source. “Not the case for passports! Hold on to your canceled passport and store it in a safe place. It should be kept in a different location than your valid passport. Even though you can’t use your old passport for travel, it’s still a useful document.”

What can an expired passport be used for?

An expired passport can actually be very useful if you’re a frequent traveler. Even after it has expired, it still remains a valid form of U.S. citizenship. If you ever lose your valid passport and need to apply for a replacement, you can send in your expired passport as proof of citizenship instead of your original birth certificate, says Lavelle.

“If you can provide your old passport [when applying for a new one], it is easier for the passport agency to know you are a U.S. citizen and they can quickly issue the new passport,” says William Worster, a professor of law with a focus on international migration, nationality, and citizenship. “If you don’t have the old passport, then it’s harder to prove that you are a U.S. citizen. If you are ever in a rush to get a passport, keeping your expired passport can be very handy for that.”

It’s also very important to hold on to your expired passport if it contains any visas. Some countries allow you to transfer a valid visa from an expired passport to a new one. “Brazil, which issues ten-year visas to U.S. citizens, will actually allow you to enter the country carrying both a canceled passport with a valid visa and a new passport. Other countries, such as Russia and Afghanistan, will want to know the details of any previous visas when you apply for a new visa,” says Lavelle. You can also make photocopies of your old visas if required.

Your expired passport can also help when applying for a new license. If you have moved or your license expired, it can be used as a valid form of citizenship.

One of the most important reasons you should keep your expired passport, though, is for the memories. Not only will you be able to look back at your old passports and laugh at how young and horrible you look in the picture, but you’ll also be able to see the stamps from all the countries you have visited.

If you really want to throw away your old passport, how should you do it?

The U.S. State Department advises people against disposing of their old passport, but if you really feel the need to there are a few things to note before you just throw it in the trash. “Keep in mind that most modern passports are made to be very durable and are difficult to destroy,” says Worster. “They are deliberately made this way so that they are not accidentally ruined or easily forged. In essence, you would probably need to fully burn it to ashes to effectively destroy it.” You can also send your expired passport to the U.S. State Department passport agency and request that they destroy it.

Worster also notes that some newer passports are made with RFID chip which contains all of your personal information. Tampering with the chip is considered illegal, so bottom line: you shouldn’t get rid of your expired passport.

What should you do with your expired passport if you’re applying for a new one?

When you apply for a new passport, you have to send in your expired passport with the DS-82 application. The form can be found through the U.S. Department of State website or at your local post office. Your expired passport will be marked with something to indicate that it is no longer valid. Before you send in your application, make sure you always check this box, or you’re losing money.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan Cutolo is a former senior production editor at Trusted Media Brands. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine, where she lives, and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.