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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 its '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 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 23:55
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    Keep it for the picture. – Burhan Khalid Nov 17 '14 at 8:07
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    It also contains records when you entered and left certain countries. This can be important for immigration or business purposes – Hilmar Mar 23 '15 at 21:50

10 Answers 10

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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!

  • Yes. In Canada for old passport can serve as ID to get a new passport up to a year after its invalidation or expiry. – Itai Jun 22 '16 at 13:40
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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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    Yup. We are going to be in that boat for another 8 years. Annoying but it works. – Loren Pechtel Dec 20 '16 at 22:57
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If I can contribute as someone who used to have to verify identities on a regular basis, a passport is the most secure (and expensive) form of ID issued to the general public. An expired passport continues to be an excellent form of ID even if it's not longer usable for travel, and as quoted elsewhere here from the US State Department, it also continues to provide proof of citizenship should that be an issue. I keep all of my expired passports in various secure places, ready for use if my current one isn't available for some reason (loss, theft, in safety deposit box, etc) .

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Another reason to keep all your old passports. Well if your applying for a PR in another country eg: Australia, one of the questions they ask is "Have any of the applicants visited any countries for less than 12 months in the past 10 years?". You have to document all the countries you visited in the last 10 years and provide dates!!.

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    If only they were all in the passport - intra-Europe travel these days gets you no stamps :( – Mark Mayo Nov 15 '14 at 2:22
  • and neither is land-border crossing in north america – cnst Apr 29 '15 at 16:49
  • @cnst - I got a Canada stamp from a land border crossing. It may be that only US citizens don't get it. – DCTLib Sep 18 '15 at 8:32
  • @DCTLib, might be -- because US citizens and permanent residents are not required a full passport booklet – cnst Sep 18 '15 at 21:31
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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 '14 at 23:28
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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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The U.S. Department of State, who issue passports, recommend you keep the old one.

Yes, we will return the old, cancelled passport to you. It may be sent separately from your new passport. It is a good idea to keep your old passport in a safe place as it is considered proof of your U.S. citizenship.

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    Could you link to where that quote is from? – Mark Mayo Sep 17 '15 at 4:10
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Another possible reason to keep your old passports is as a continuous record of identity.

A while ago I knew someone that had trouble with passports twice - lost one, I think, and something else. In any case, when he was going to renew it the next time, there came up another problem with his birth certificate - that no one had mentioned before, not even with other passports... possibly just the extra scrutiny this time. Since there wasn't time before travel to have another copy mailed to him, he brought along all the additional proofs of identity he could, hoping to get his passport renewed in time.

This included every expired passport he had - as a continuous record, of who he is and proof that his identity was real. He had them going all the way back to childhood, because of overseas relatives. Just like an expired passport can still be used as proof of identity in some places, a record of them shows that someone's identity has history.

I don't know if the passports were the deciding factor, or if the other documents he had were enough, but they took them and looked them over (instead of being confused at him, which suggests that they can indeed be used as this sort of continuous record), and they did issue him his passport, so I guess it was helpful to have them.

I suppose it's pretty unlikely that someone would need to prove their identity in this way, or to use them to show a continual proof of identity - but it might happen, however rare, and it is probably not a bad thing to keep the old passports anyway. If something happened to your passport (or even most-recently-expired one), then having an even older one might someday be an extra kind of backup, as proof of citizenship, as one more piece of bureaucratic proof, or anything else you want it for.

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In Visitor : supporting documents guide GOV.UK has five pages of documents that are either obligatory or recommended. The very first of the recommended is Previous travel documents/passports, which show previous travel.

Maybe your old passport contains no such evidence, or you will never seek to enter UK, but otherwise it may make your entry smoother.

Section 2

Personally, I have found other people's old passports of interest for historical and genealogical purposes. For example, some of my mother's passports mention a middle name she never liked - and managed to get removed from a birth certificate. (I have since found another birth certificate that does show that middle name, together with some slightly different other details but have the link to prove the two certificates are for the one person.)

The revenue stamps may have some value to collectors (though these are not used nowadays, they did used to be).

One of the visas gave me the name I was seeking of the vessel that transported me across the Atlantic (at an age when I was oblivious to such things).

In summary, even if no use to you at present, they may be of interest to others, eventually. So for "What should I do with my expired passport?" I suggest, "Keep it".

However, that might not always be possible. For example David mentions:

I am French and we are not allowed to keep old passports.

... in a question where it seems retention would have been useful for the required record of previous visa details (a reason for retention already mentioned by others).

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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 '14 at 4:38
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    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 '14 at 4:51

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