One of the most frequent questions we get from travelers is “do I get my old passport back when I renew my passport?” Most of the time, this question is because travelers want to keep their old passport as a souvenir of their travels. Luckily, the answer is yes! Your old passport will be marked cancelled and returned to you.
The Value of an Old Passport
Your old passport remains a valuable document, even after you’ve gotten your passport renewed. Yes, it is a great momento of all your travels, and it is fun to be able to flip through your old passport book and look at all of the entry stamps and visas. (It may be more or less fun to look at your previous passport photos, and see how you’ve aged in ten years!) But more than that, your old passport remains proof of your US citizenship. If your current passport is ever lost or stolen, you can submit your cancelled passport instead of your birth certificate to prove your citizenship. You will need to make sure that your appearance has not changed too radically since your old passport was issued, though. If you lose your passport at age 40, you can’t submit the passport you were issued at age 5!
My Old Passport Isn’t Expired. Can I Travel With It?
We always recommend that travelers renew their passports at least six months before they expire. If you’ve followed our advice, you may get back an old passport that hasn’t yet hit its expiration date. However, this does not mean that your old passport is still valid for travel! You will need to carry your new passport for all travel purposes.
There is only one reason that you may need to use your old passport for travel purposes. A few countries – notably Brazil, China, and India – issue long term visas to US citizens and allow valid visas to be used even after the passport has been cancelled. For example, I renewed my passport this summer, but in my cancelled passport, I have a multiple-entry Brazil visa valid 10 years that was issued in 2012. I can continue to travel to Brazil on that visa until 2022, as long as I carry both the old passport with the visa and my new, valid passport.
How Can I Tell My Old Passport From My New One?
When you submit your passport for renewal, the State Department will mark your passport cancelled by punching holes in the cover. Years ago, the State Department would also stamp the word “Cancelled” on the inside of the passport in addition to punching holes in the cover, but this is no longer standard. Your old passport won’t say that it is cancelled, but the holes are proof that it is has been renewed.
So keep your old passport in a safe place after you renew your passport. It could still come in handy some day!