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I am a French citizen domiciled in California and with US permanent residency (US green card). I exited the US using my French passport, and and got a new French passport when outside the US (because the old French passport's condition wasn't satisfying some airline's employee, not because of it had expired and were about to).

When I enter the US (by plane), should I show my old or new passport to the US immigration? Or does the US immigration only look at my US green card? Note that my stay outside the US may be between 6 months and 1 year, in case this changes what the US immigration will look at. I'm not sure yet where I'll be flying from but likely somewhere in Asia.

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    Normally the only reason to show an old passport is if it contains the visa you're using to enter, and that wouldn't apply to you. There shouldn't be any problem with entering on a different passport from the one you used when leaving; that must be extremely common. Is there some other reason you think you might need the old one? – Nate Eldredge Jul 8 at 23:27
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    @NateEldredge Thanks. I have given up trying to use my common sense when facing governmental agencies. I just try my best to follow whatever rules they may have come up with. I personally don't see why a passport is needed at all. – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 8 at 23:30
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    From what country will you be entering? If you will be coming from elsewhere in North America, you only need to show your green card; otherwise a passport is required (i.e. your new one, as your old one is no longer valid). See usa.gov/enter-us. – Nate Eldredge Jul 8 at 23:31
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    "I personally don't see why a passport is needed at all": in fact, it isn't. The only document that the law requires you to have is your green card. – phoog Jul 9 at 2:08
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    "I have given up trying to use my common sense when facing governmental agencies" this should be applied to all governmental agencies of all countries. They thrive on thwarting common sense at any and every turn! – FreeMan Jul 9 at 14:18
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Because you have been issued a new passport, your previous passport is no longer valid. When your consulate issues you a new passport, they should do something to the old passport to indicate this:

  • keep it and not return it to you
  • clip a corner of the cover
  • punch holes in it
  • stamp it as "invalid" somewhere
  • give you a "cancelled" sticker to put on the old passport

Always use your newest passport to enter any country. It may be worthwhile to carry your old passport until its original expiration date, in case the question ever comes up of some document linking to a passport number.


A second valid passport may be issued under some circumstances. However, there is generally a special application process for this, and you would probably know whether you had done this. In the case of France:

En principe, vous ne pouvez pas avoir plusieurs passeports français. Toutefois, un second passeport peut exceptionnellement être délivré dans 2 situations : si votre passeport est immobilisé pendant une période de voyage ou si le passeport risque de faire apparaître des destinations incompatibles. ... Attention: la délivrance d'un second passeport n'est pas un droit, mais une faculté et c'est l'administration qui fixe ses critères d'attribution.

In general, you cannot have multiple French passports. However, in rare cases a second passport can be obtained in 2 situations: if your passport is unavailable during a period of travel [e.g. being held by a consulate for a different visa–ed.], or if the passport will show incompatible destinations [e.g. Israel & Iran—ed.] Note: obtaining a second passport is not a right, but a privilege and the administration sets the criteria for granting it.

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    +1 - It may be worth noting that some countries that process renewals online never see the old passport, so it is possible that none of the above bullets may apply. When I renewed my (New Zealand) passport recently I just received a "Cancelled" sticker and instructions to affix to the front cover of the old passport (although I guess this kinda fits the last bullet point). – Midavalo Jul 9 at 0:21
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    This same is true for passports reported lost or stolen. Assume that the usage of a invalidated passport can cause an alert. – Mark Johnson Jul 9 at 4:40
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    +1 for keeping the old passport just in case, I once had a valid visa stamped on my old passport making the old passport necessary to travel. – everyone Jul 9 at 7:26
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    Some countries (for example Ukraine) allow to have two passports that are both valid at the same time. When I got my new passport I asked to keep my old passport as it had non expired USA visa and now I have two valid passports. Here's the quote from wikipedia: Two passports can be issued to those who frequently travel abroad – Roman Konoval Jul 9 at 11:08
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    It's commonplace that you get the old passport back because most people need the old (or perhaps new) visas in it, either literally to use or as reference. This is a common question on here. – Fattie Jul 9 at 12:14
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The US governmental websites are contradicting themselves on whether presenting a passport is required.

https://help.cbp.gov/s/article/Article-820?language=en_US (mirror) says no:

If you are a green card holder and you do not stay outside the U.S. for 1 year or more, you should have either your green card (I-551) or your returning resident visa to re-enter the United States. You are not required to present your unexpired passport, however it is not a bad idea to carry it with you.

https://www.usa.gov/enter-us#item-34787 (mirror) says yes (if arriving from a country that isn't Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda):

Arrival From Other Countries: All travelers entering the United States from all other countries need a passport upon arrival (regardless of their country of citizenship). Permanent residents and foreign nationals may also need a U.S. visa. You must apply for a visa before you start your trip.

Unless someone here can provide a clear, authoritative answer, I recommend taking the new passport to be on the safe side and also to try to appease over-zealous airline employees (obviously take your old passport too if your valid US visa is on it, but the OP has a US permanent residency so no visa).

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  • Downvoter: is my answer incorrect? – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 9 at 21:37
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    I'm not the downvoter, but I'm really confused that you seem to be talking about yourself in the third person. – GS - Apologise to Monica Jul 9 at 22:14
  • @GS-ApologisetoMonica I thought some people might miss the fact that I am the OP, hence saying "OP" instead of "I". – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 9 at 22:20
  • I can sort of see why you did it as Q&A is supposed to be of general relevance, but as I had noticed you were the OP I was just really confused especially when you wished yourself good luck. I think you could phrase it in a way that makes it clear even to a casual reader that you are answering your own question. – GS - Apologise to Monica Jul 9 at 22:22
  • @GS-ApologisetoMonica thanks for the feedback, I edited the answer to make it less confusing. – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 9 at 23:27

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