Passport complications.
April 7, 2009 1:07 AM   Subscribe

I have jumped on an opportunity to take a vacation on the sunny beaches of Australia (insert mixup of seasons joke here). I am leaving in three weeks, and staying for six. However, I have run into a problem: my American passport expires two weeks before I return (though after I leave).

Now, I could pay the extra $60 + shipping for expedited service and hopefully get it back before I leave, or go for the in-person service which is presumably even more complicated and expensive. However, since I also have an EU passport, and can use it while in Australia, I only need the American passport to return home in nine weeks.

1) Will leaving the country be a problem with a soon-to-expire American passport? I know they check your passport, but it is generally perfunctory, and only checks for validity, right? Can I leave with only the EU passport, if the American one is still in the mail?
2) If I return with an expired passport, what sort of trouble am I liable to encounter? This says none, this says $100 worth, although neither source is authoritative, and most other sources are vaguely gloomy at the prospect. I know that entering on a foreign passport, even with a valid visa, is considered Very Bad.

As I see it, I can either
I) delay renewing the passport and travel anyway, dealing with expired passport issues on my return, or
II) send in my passport for renewal, running the risk of not having it at all on my departure (although it could be mailed to me later, before my return). If leaving the country is not a problem, I would skip the expedited service and have it mailed to me in Australia, especially since it seems many people report fast turnarounds, and I might get it within three weeks anyway.

3) Any Melbournians for a meetup in may?

posted by alexei to Travel & Transportation around Australia (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why not do one of those rush passport company things? They work. And have varying levels of cost associated with speed. This one can do it in 8-12 business days for $99 + government fees. You can do it in 5-7 business days for $149. This one does it in 1-3 business days for $139. I have no idea which service is decent - you'll have to search around, but I've used this type of service before and it's been fine.

If you factor in sending certified document mail to Australia (with your delayed passport) I'd think this is much faster and cheaper.

And generally your passport has to be good for SIX months from the time of your trip!
posted by barnone at 1:19 AM on April 7, 2009

Sorry - here's that second company. This one seems to be well-endorsed on the site, which you could double-check for verification.
posted by barnone at 1:21 AM on April 7, 2009

Last thing. The problem with trying to get back into the US on an expired passport isn't limited to that exact moment -- you could be put on The List and get pulled aside for "random" searches/inquiries when you arrive back into the US in the future. I was put on some list, for some unknown reason, and seriously got searched almost 85% of the time. I must have been taken off that list about 6 months ago because it hasn't happened since.

You don't want that kind of hassle. I'd get the passport before leaving and do it on the up-and-up. Folks might have had other experiences (even recently) but border security has the ability to make your life living hell upon entry/exit and it would be worth $139 to me to ensure that didn't happen.
posted by barnone at 1:34 AM on April 7, 2009

From what I have heard, at least in my country (Australia) and the UK, you need to return to the country on the same passport you used when you left. Or, at least, the same NATION's passport. I don't know if returning on a renewed one, after the one you left on has expired, is a problem or not.

And I dunno about getting out of the US on an "about to expire" passport, but getting into Aus might be difficult.
posted by Diag at 2:21 AM on April 7, 2009

Yeh, I'm a US Citizen living abroad with multiple passports and you really don't want to be mixing these documents up when presenting yourself to Immigration.

The folks at the US borders get anxious and confused if anything is out of order, so I'd suggest keeping it clean - get your US passport renewed so you can both enter and exit on that travel document.

Their systems will note if you exit on a US and try to reenter on a EU. While I personally haven't had any problems with the folks at US Immigration when making little mistakes such as that (one time massively jetlagged I managed to present three different documents before I found my US passport), some folks seem to get a lot of hassle. Many of the rules seem ad-hoc and purposely left up to the judgement of the officer you encounter. Best to minimise the application of subjective interpretation, and that means exit and enter on your US documentation.

I had to replace my US passport once before I left for India; the worst part about the in person rush service (besides the fee) was the entire day it took to compete. I had to visit in the AM, and then hang around outside the US Embassy here in London until my documents were ready.

That being said, the staff were friendly, polite and did a very good job.
posted by Mutant at 3:27 AM on April 7, 2009

Australian customs probably won't like you entering the country on a passport that's about to expire, unless your return ticket is well before the expiry date.

Also - I hope that the beaches you're planning to visit are up north. It's already getting pretty chilly down here.
posted by Lucie at 3:49 AM on April 7, 2009

Don't forget that you will need to get your visa before you go. You get them online instantly, are good for a year, but I don't think that your passport can expire at any time during that year.
They won't let you on the plane if you don't have your visa.
Go to
This is if you're a US citizen.
They check the passports pretty closely down in OZ. Last time I was barely let in coming back from a quick trip to NZ because it was full (my passport, not Australia) there wasn't enough space for the stamp. I doubt they would let you in if your passport was expiring before you're return ticket date.
posted by newpotato at 4:02 AM on April 7, 2009

Their systems will note if you exit on a US and try to reenter on a EU.

They don't scan your passport when you leave the U.S. The big no-no is trying to enter the U.S. on anything other than your U.S. passport if you have one.
posted by oaf at 5:28 AM on April 7, 2009

If you have a passport office near you and can get it done in person, it is actually less expensive because you don't pay the middleman "expedited service" fees. I had a passport emergency and drove to Boston one morning and picked up my new passport the next day.
posted by mikepop at 5:36 AM on April 7, 2009

Best answer: The in-person service is not more complicated, and is only more expensive if you need to pay to get to a (government) passport agency. If you live near enough to one for it to be convenient, their last minute service will get done on time and is recommended. They'll ask you for your date of travel.

If you want to use your EU passport to go to Australia (you don't need your passport to exit the US, just to prove to your airline that Australia will let you in), why deal with getting the US passport renewed in the US? Six weeks will be more than long enough to replace it through the Consulate-General in Melbourne.
posted by deeaytch at 5:41 AM on April 7, 2009

Australia apparently does not allow entry if your passport expires in less than six months, or if it expires within three months of your exit date. (That is not an official Australian Immigration site, but a call to the Australian Embassy in DC might get you the correct info more easily than digging around on the Web.)
posted by catlet at 6:23 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got yelled at at JFK once when I tried to leave the country on a passport that was due to expire in six months - even though I was only going to be gone for three weeks. They finally let me through, but it took some wrangling. So yeah, I'd get the expedited passport renewal taken care of before you go.
posted by pdb at 6:58 AM on April 7, 2009

catlet: Australia apparently does not allow entry if your passport expires in less than six months, or if it expires within three months of your exit date. (That is not an official Australian Immigration site, but a call to the Australian Embassy in DC might get you the correct info more easily than digging around on the Web.)

This. It's a very common restriction. You won't even be allowed to leave for Australia possibly if they do the passport check at the departure gate and notice that it's due to expire very soon.

Bite the bullet and get thee to a passport issuing office or do the expedited thing.
posted by polexa at 7:09 AM on April 7, 2009

Passport applications are way down right now. I paid for expedited service and got my passport within a week - as in, I mailed it on a Thursday and got it on the following Wednesday. You might want to go in person since you're cutting it really close - if you can get to a passport office they can sometimes do same-day service.
posted by crinklebat at 8:16 AM on April 7, 2009

PDB is right - you have to get this taken care of before you leave. When you check in for your flights, one of the things that ticket agent looks at is your passport. If it's due to expire within six months, they can refuse to issue you a ticket, visa or not. It's happened to at least three people I know.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:55 AM on April 7, 2009

I'm going on the assumption that American passport offices are on the same level as their Canadian counterparts : go to your local office with your passport and all your travel documents proving that you are leaving on a certain date in the near future; for an extra fee they will have it back to you within a week.

If it is truly an emergency - say, you are flying tomorrow - the Canadian offices can do them on the spot, which is really annoying when you stand there watching them do it and remember the six weeks you waited last time.
posted by mannequito at 12:02 PM on April 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. Since I'll use my EU passport to enter & exit Aus, and it doesn't expire for years, there's no problem there. I already have the visa. It's only exiting and entering the US where the trouble lies.

Right now, it seems like leaving on my current passport, and getting the passport renewed in Melbourne seems like the best solution. It looks like I can submit it by mail to the consulate there. Plus I get a passport issued by a consulate-- neat.

I do live near a passport agency, so the alternative, it seems, is to wait until I have 2 weeks to the flight and then make an appointment there. I'm having trouble finding out about the fees, though.
posted by alexei at 3:46 PM on April 7, 2009

Here is the passport fees page from the US Department of State.
posted by catlet at 6:24 PM on April 7, 2009

Response by poster: I sent in my passport to the consulate here in Melbourne. According to the gentleman on the phone, it should come back in good time. Regular fee-- USD75. Thanks to all those who offered suggestions.
posted by alexei at 7:00 PM on May 11, 2009

« Older Name an 80s sci-fi movie about a child android...   |   Bollywood-themed Party! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.