Is it possible to leave and re-enter the US through the land border with Canada with an expired (US) passport? My passport expired in December and I didn't realize that until now. In addition to the expired passport, I have my naturalization certificate and Tennessee issued drivers license to prove citizenship and residency. Re-entry will be by road from Canada.

UPDATE: I made some calls and was told that I needed a passport -- I was told to contact the regional passport agency in New Orleans (about 6 hours by road for me) get an appointment and show up in person with proof of imminent travel outside the country. After searching on the web, I located a few agencies who claimed that they could help with this for a charge of around $199. I picked the one that had good reviews and they helped take care of the problem. On Monday they walked me through different documents they needed, asked me to go to a "Passport Verification" agent in a post office to get everything verified and sealed in an envelope, had to FedEx the package to them. On Tuesday they got it, processed the passport and shipped it back to me. I got it Wednesday. In all it cost me $170 (Govt Passport Fee) + $25 (Verification fee at the post office) + $199 (Agency charge) + $90 (Shipping). Glad i got this taken care of. Thanks to everyone who helped with responses.

  • When do you need to travel? You might have time to renew your passport before your trip. Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 16:57
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    If you want a definitive answer you could call the US embassy and ask for advice. They might be able to get you a temporary passport by then. In any case, I hope that after your trip, you'll post an answer and let us know what happened. Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 20:07
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    Wait.. You're in the US at the moment, not Canada?
    – Doc
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 4:35
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    @Sun: Rather than adding your answer as an update, you should really post it as an answer. It's encouraged to answer your own questions here! Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 5:04
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    You might want to edit the question - it sounds like what you want to do is exit and then re-enter with an expired passport, which is rather different to what you originally asked!
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 8:45

4 Answers 4


As a US citizen you can not be denied entry to the US. It is possible that you will be subject to additional scrutiny when entering, and additional checks to confirm that your passport is legitimate, but otherwise you will be fine.

If you were entering the US by air then the answer would likely be different. Although technically you are still able to enter using an expired passport, it's very possible the airline would refuse to allow you to fly. As you are entering by car this will obviously not be a problem.

Update: The Across the Border blog contains a quote from a named spokesman at US CBP that states :

"Federal officers will not deny entry to any valid US citizen. Travelers may experience delays while CBP officers possibly refer them to secondary inspection so that their identity and admissibility can be positively determined."

  • Do you have a source for this answer? I tried to find an official statement to this effect but could not. Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 17:17
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    The US Constitution. If not the original, then the 14th Amendment.
    – Doc
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 18:09
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    Neither the constitution nor the 14th amendment has any specific language about citizens entering the country, as far as I can tell. I agree that in principle, US citizens generally have the right to enter the US, but I don't see that it would necessarily abridge this right if the border guards insisted that you first go to an embassy and get your passport renewed. Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 20:05
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    @hagubear: It is probably true for most countries, that they cannot deny their own citizens entry. The issue is however that it is not unreasonable to require a proof of citizenship, even from own citizens - either in form of a valid passport or by presenting some other form of identification card. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 13:58
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    This is a misleading answer. Tol-Einar jambo's answer is the correct one. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:06

Please see the "Update" section in the question regarding what i ended up doing. Anyway, I had also posted a question in Customs and Border protection (CBP) info center on 7/21/13 that was answered today (8/7/13). I asked if someone could reenter the US from Canada with the following documents --

  • Original Naturalization certificate proving that she is a US citizen
  • Tennessee State issued drivers license
  • Expired US Passport (expired in Dec 2012)

In their response which arrived today (18 days after my enquiry), it states

Based on your inquiry, your daughter is allowed to travel by land with the documents mentioned. Thank you again for contacting the CBP INFO Center.

Oh, well


Since you don't have an enhanced driver's licence, your documents are not enough to enter the United States.

The basic requirements are regulated in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 215(b):

'Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.'

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the following WHTI compliant documents are accepted if you enter by land or sea:

  • U.S. Passports
  • U.S. Passport Cards
  • Enhanced Driver's Licenses
  • Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • Military Identification Cards (for members of the U.S. armed forces on official orders)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Document (for U.S. citizens on official maritime business)
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    Aren't those two statements contradictory? The first says that you MUST have a "valid United States passport". The second says that an EDL is sufficient. Clearly both can't be correct, unless the president has passed such exceptions as described in the first quote, without which this answer is incomplete.
    – Doc
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 19:01
  • Presumably the President has in fact authorized these exceptions. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 19:57
  • I am not an expert on US law, but phrases like "except when provided by the head of state" or "when provided by the head of state" are used in many countries to allow less cumbersome modifications of the law by incorporating other laws or regulations instead of actually passing a new (in this case) Act of Congress. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative has been in effect for land entries since June 1, 2009 and allows US citizens to use any of the documents listed on the US CBP page I linked to. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 22:11
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    This doesn't answer the question. It says it will be unlawful for the citizen. It does not say he can be denied entry.
    – user102008
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 23:12
  • @user102008 is correct: there is a difference between being allowed into the country, and whether you are doing so unlawfully. There is no question that an American citizen is entitled to be in the United States. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 0:56

This is an old question, but I just traveled to Canada with a friend who had an expired passport, and we had no issues whatsoever. My friend's passport expired in January 2018, and our trip was in March 2018. We went on a 2-day trip from Detroit to Toronto.

Entering Canada, we told the border guard that one of our passports had expired, and he responded "don't care".

Returning to the U.S., we told the same thing to the U.S. border guard, and he said "doesn't matter." The border guard was more interested in the random details of our trips (i.e., why we made the trip, why my friend was visiting me, etc.)

No extra identification was needed in either case. We handed over my friend's driver's license just in case it was necessary, but, in both crossings, the border guard returned it to us without even looking at it.

Of course, this is personal experience, and it's possible that the border guards were just friendly that day. Nonetheless, from what I can tell:

(1) Canada doesn't care if your passport is expired.

(2) I think the U.S. border guard just needs to establish citizenship. When you apply to renew your passport, your old passport serves as sufficient proof of citizenship, so I imagine it also works for re-entering the U.S.

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    I don't think it's safe to assume this will always happen, but if one is close to the border, and it's not a multi-hour commitment to test it, I'd certainly try it if the circumstances required it. If the border officer is satisfied with your circumstances, he has the option of admitting you. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 18:25
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    It helped a lot that it cost us very little to try it. We probably wouldn't have dared to try it if the border were much farther away from Detroit. They really did not ask much about our circumstances though. In both cases, the border guard did not ask us anything related to the expired passport. It certainly was not an emergency situation or anything; our trip was purely for leisure.
    – nukeguy
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 18:27
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    If the agent is satisfied you are US citizens who aren't trouble :) or Canadian citizens who have a right to enter, that's all that's needed. Glad you gave it a try, and glad you reported your success to us. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 19:35

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