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Can you cross the border with expired passport?

Having a valid passport is essential for international travel, but life happens and sometimes passports expire. You’ve got that dream vacation coming up, but your passport has already expired. Can you still cross the border? Let’s take a look at the rules and regulations around traveling with an expired passport.

The General Rule

In most cases, the general rule is that your passport must be valid for the entirety of your trip in order to cross international borders. This applies whether you are traveling by land, air, or sea. Most countries require that your passport be valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of your trip. Some will not allow you to enter if your passport expires even a day before you are set to leave that country. Airlines and cruise ships will also deny boarding if your passport does not meet the destination’s entry validity requirements.

The Exceptions

While the general rule is that passports must be valid for the entire duration of the trip, there are some exceptions:

Returning to Country of citizenship

Some countries will allow their own citizens to re-enter with an expired passport. However, airlines may still refuse boarding without a valid passport. Check with your country’s immigration authority to see if they allow expired passport entries for citizens.

Travel Within the European Union

For travel within the 26 European Union countries, as well as to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, an EU citizen can enter with a passport expired less than 5 years. Some airlines and countries may still require your passport to be valid for at least 3 months after travel.

Travel to and Within Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean

For air and sea travel returning directly to the United States, U.S. citizens can enter with a passport expired less than 1 year. However, this does not apply to land border crossings. Some cruise lines may still require a valid passport.

Unpredictable Enforcement

While there are some exceptions to allow entry with an expired passport, enforcement can be unpredictable. Even if your situation may technically fall under an exception according to the letter of the law, it is ultimately up to the discretion of the immigration officer whether to allow you into the country. They have the authority to deny you entry if they wish. Relying on an expired passport, even if legally permitted, can open you up to long delays, hassles, or missed trips. For peace of mind, it is always best to make sure you have a valid passport before you travel internationally.

Renew Your Passport ASAP

If you are planning any international travel in the near future, renew your passport as soon as possible if it is expired or close to expiring. U.S. passports can be renewed by mail up to one year before the expiration date. Make sure you have your valid passport in hand with plenty of time before your trip.

Country Entry with Expired U.S. Passport?
Canada Yes, if expired less than 1 year and traveling by air or sea
Mexico Yes, if expired less than 1 year and traveling by air or sea
United Kingdom No
France No
Germany Yes, if EU citizen and passport expired less than 5 years

Planning Ahead

To avoid any issues, make sure your passport meets these criteria before international travel:

  • Passport is not expired
  • Passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the length of your trip
  • Passport has at least 2-4 blank pages left for any entry/exit stamps
  • Passport is in good physical condition with no damage

Also be sure to make photocopies of your passport’s ID page and your visa (if required) and keep them separate from your actual passport. This can help if your actual passport gets lost or stolen.

Check entry requirements for every country you will visit well in advance. Some countries may have additional passport validity rules beyond the standard 6 month requirement. Double check with each country’s embassy as requirements can change.

What If Your Passport Expires While Traveling?

If your passport happens to expire unexpectedly during your trip, you may be able to get an emergency passport renewal at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. This can help you get back to the U.S. Consult the U.S. State Department website for details on how to do this.

Extra Fees for Short Passport Validity

While you may be allowed to travel with limited passport validity, some countries will charge you an extra visa issuance fee or entry fee if your passport expires too soon. For example, Schengen visa holders must pay an extra 60 euro fee if their passport expires within 3 months of return travel. Check regulations beforehand to avoid surprise fees.

Border Officer Discretion

One final caution: Even if you technically fall into an exception that allows expired passport entry, it is 100% up to the discretion of the immigration officer at the port of entry. They have the authority to deny you entry for any reason if they do not wish to admit you into their country. Do not rely on being allowed in just because the law may technically permit it with an expired passport. Make sure your passport is valid if at all possible.


In most cases, you cannot cross international borders with an expired passport. However, there are some exceptions for entry to certain countries and regions for citizens or residents. Understand the rules for your destination and always check well in advance to make sure your passport is valid. Renew as early as possible if your passport is expiring. While you may get lucky with an expired passport, having a valid one prevents hassles, delays, fees, and denied entry.