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I recently renewed my passport, and have a shiny new one. When renewing, I sent in the old one as proof of citizenship/identity, but was surprised that, along with my new passport, the old one was sent back - with a few holes punched in it to verify it's 'uselessness'.

Most advice I can find re: holding on to expired passports mainly advises doing so in order to use them for the exact purpose that I used mine; but beyond that (since I have a new passport, which will someday be expired), is there any reason to hold on to the old one? If not, are there any particular precautions I should take in disposing of it beyond ensuring that the page with my identity is torn out and shredded/cut into tiny pieces to avoid identity theft?

(If it's relevant, mine is a US passport)

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Many people like to save old passports as a souvenir of past travels. Just keep it in a safe place with your other important documents. –  Nate Eldredge Apr 6 at 15:06
    
I'm not sure what you mean by 'with a few holes punched in it'. If it isn't too obvious that it is void, you might think about taking it with you when you travel to a more dangerous location. That way you can carry your old one for identification purposes without having to worry about getting your actual passport stolen. Especially if it isn't past the expiry yet. –  Chris Mueller Apr 6 at 17:49
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Quite a few countries, apparently including the US, physically mutilate expired passports (clip off a corner, punch a hole through it with a hole puncher), etc to make it completely obvious that it's invalid. This also has the helpful side effect of making it harder for you to accidentally take it instead of your new shiny passport! –  jpatokal Apr 6 at 23:55

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Officially the only reason you'll need your old passport is if it contains any visas that are still current - despite being in the old passport these visas are generally still valid. If this is the case, then obviously you'll just want to carry your passport with you.

If you have no visas, then the best advise I can give you is to put your old passport in one of your bags (preferably one of the bags you check-in). In the event that you lose your current passport - especially if in a foreign country - having your old passport will make the process of obtaining a replacement much easier.

Personally I have my previous passport in an envelope containing some spare cash, a spare ATM card, and an old Drivers License. To date I've never needed any of these, but it's good to know they are there if I ever need them!

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Sometimes you have valid visas in the old passport that you might find use for later. Also you might need to use that passport to prove travel entry/exit dates at some immigration counter in the future.

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There is one particular reason that I can think of to hold onto a passport with an used visa in it.

The local Chinese consulate will not grant a multiple-entry visa to first-time visitors to the country. Don't ask me why, that's just how they do it. So if you want a multiple-entry visa and you've got a passport that has no China visas in it, presenting an old passport with a cancelled visa will prove you're not a first-timer, and they'll grant the visa.

It's possible other countries have similar restrictions on the type of visas they issue.

I (almost) never take an old passport with me when I travel-- I'd worry about it disappearing and being used for nefarious purposes (my valid one is always on my person or locked in a safe). The sole case when I did, it was used for identification, and the new one has a different number so it would not do.

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(+1) Schengen countries also follow a similar principle (the need to appear in person and various other requirements can be waived and multiple entry visas issued to “bona fide applicants” who have used visas lawfully in the past). But consulates are supposed make this decision on an individual basis and have a database of past visas; they don't rely on what they find in your passport. –  Relaxed May 11 at 23:28

I personally staple my previous passport on the back of my current passport and leave any older ones at home. It's definitely advisable to keep them in a safe spot somewhere i.e you shouldn't dispose them.

I would recommend carrying the immediate previous passport with you as it provides more information about your identity and past travel. It is also useful in case you have any valid visas on it. If it does not carry any older visas in it you should be good just by leaving it in a safe place at home or somewhere else as well.

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Keep in mind that this could be considered "mutilating" your (current) passport, which technically could make it invalid. –  Doc Apr 7 at 4:38
    
Many embassies have done the same to both my passports when they have taken it for stamping a visa. If you do not stamp on the bar-code or on the pinholes on the passport, they do not have an issue with this. This includes the US as well as Japanese embassy. –  Aditya Somani Apr 7 at 4:51

Sometimes for future immigration purposes, or other purposes where you have to keep track of periods of presence in a country (e.g. taxes, requirements to pass on citizenship, whatever), it's nice to be able to go back and refer to past entry and exit stamps.

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