US citizen in Canada with expired passport
December 26, 2011 9:31 PM   Subscribe

On Christmas eve I discovered that my (US) passport expired last month yet I had a trip to Canada planned two days later (no time to renew). Well, I am in Canada (no trouble crossing the border). Now do I have to spend my next few days renewing the passport so I can get home? I guess I'm wondering how much leeway border agents have. I have the passport, my birth certificate and driver's license.
posted by katestap to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
you SHOULD be fine - a birth certificate and photo ID should be enough, according to Canada's standards (, and I've been told Canada bases its standards on what will let someone OUT (they don't care that you have a passport to get in, but they want you to be able to get back home). However, when I tried this I got hassled. I had to actually argue with the patrol person that it was acceptable before they let me in - but they did let me in (and back out).

However, with a birth certificate and photo driver's license combined with a recently expired passport, I think you should be okay.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:51 PM on December 26, 2011

When returning to the United States from Canada, it is very important to note that all U.S. citizens are required to present a valid U.S. passport to enter or re-enter the United States via air. For entry into the United States via land and sea borders, U.S. citizens must present either a U.S. passport, passport card, NEXUS card, Enhanced Drivers License, or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document. (

So, if your license is an Enhanced one you're definitely good. For more info, this site appears to be a US government one aimed at US citizens trying to get back into the country:
posted by jacalata at 9:54 PM on December 26, 2011

Oh yes - I take back what I said - apparently Canada's changed their regulations on who they let in....if you're driving see if you can call the border directly and see if there's leeway, but if not, yeah, try to get it renewed....

Unless, as jacalata says, you have an enhanced driver's license - that allows for passport-free transit between canada and the us for the states it's available (including NY).
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 10:15 PM on December 26, 2011

I think the issue here is getting back into the United States
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 PM on December 26, 2011

You should probably call the nearest US consulate to confirm. Whenever I travel to Canada, I have had horrible times with the US border patrol people even though I have never done anything wrong. They just seem stricter there than the Mexico crossing or at the airport returning from other countries. My friends in touring bands agree!
posted by dottiechang at 11:45 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

On the US/Mexico land borders, if you show up in the US with your expired passport and/or driver's license+birth certificate they'll let you in. At the San Ysidro station, they have a separate lane for people w/o WHTI docs. At a busy crossing you won't be alone with the expired passport or alternate ID. At worst they'll ask you a few more questions but they'll let you into the US (unless you're on some sort of terrorist list).

Recently, the guy in line in front of me just walked up with his passport and the agent scanned it and said "you know this has expired? you should take care of that." and let him go right through.
posted by birdherder at 2:27 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're going back into the US, as a US citizen, on a very slightly expired passport and with lots of other ID. They might give you a speech and irritate you, but you'll get back in to the US.
posted by jeather at 4:52 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Having an expired passport does not negate your rights of citizenship. On the off chance a border agent notices the expiration date they will still let you through.
posted by JJ86 at 11:28 AM on December 27, 2011

I had this exact situation happen to me--passport expired while in Canada on vacay. No issues getting back through, pretty sure the guy didn't even notice (I was in a minivan full of college kids.) I did have my birth certificate for backup.
posted by ista at 5:51 PM on December 27, 2011

If there's ANYTHING unusual about your passport/visa, expect that the US border guards may choose to screw with you for a couple hours, just to be pains. Seriously. You'll get through, but they may escort you inside, and make you wait & sweat, then run you through a bizarre interview process to verify your identity.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:19 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

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