Is It Illegal for a U.S. Citizen to Have More Than One Passport?

Reasons why a U.S. citizen or national might have multiple passports, and when this might or might not be considered a crime.

Unlike expired drivers' licenses, which most U.S. states require be surrendered upon renewal, no one will collect your old United States passport from you when it expires. In fact, being in possession of an expired U.S. passport is not considered to be a fraud or any other sort of crime or violation. But what if you have more than one unexpired, active passport, maybe even from different countries?

Here, we will cover some additional reasons why someone might have multiple passports, from the United States and/or other countries, and when this might or might not be considered a problem under U.S. law.

Legal Reasons for a U.S. Citizen to Have Multiple Passports

There are various legitimate reasons for a U.S. citizen to possess multiple passports, including:

  • You have dual citizenship/nationality in the United States and another country.
  • You are a U.S. government worker, who has been issued a diplomatic passport allowing easy, no-fee entry to other countries.
  • You renewed your U.S. passport and kept the old expired or canceled passport.

We will discuss each of these below.

    Dual Citizenship Between the United States and Another Country

    People having dual citizenship often have a passport for each country. Dual citizenship or nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time.

    The United States allows (but does not encourage) dual citizenship. Your home country might or might not allow it. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. The dual nationality option may be automatic by law. For example, when a child is born in a foreign country but its parents are U.S. citizens, the child automatically holds citizenship in both countries (with a few exceptions, based on things like the year of the child's birth or if the child was born in a country that doesn't recognize birthright citizenship).

    A U.S. citizen might also acquire foreign citizenship through marriage to a foreign national. Or, a person who naturalizes as a U.S. citizen may retain the citizenship of their home country, if the home country allows it.

    Under the above circumstances, it is not illegal or a fraud in any way for the person to hold two valid passports. Nevertheless, the United States requires that you carry your U.S. passport when traveling, and use it to reenter the United States.

    Special Passports for Active-Duty U.S. Military Personnel, Diplomats

    Active duty military personnel or U.S. diplomats will have government-issued passports to be used for official government-ordered business only.

    These persons are required to apply for tourist passports for all leisure travel outside the United States. Which passport they will use depends on the reason for their travel.

    Possession of a Canceled U.S. Passport After Renewal

    As stated above, it is not a fraud to keep an unaltered, canceled U.S. passport in your name after renewing an expired one. In fact, when a passport is renewed, the U.S. Passport Agency will return the old, canceled passport to the applicant.

    While the canceled passport cannot be used for travel, it is still valid proof of U.S. citizenship and personal identity. Therefore, it should be kept in a safe place to prevent identity fraud. Nevertheless, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) does not ask you to report a stolen passport if it has already expired.

    Passport and Visa Fraud Often Equals Identity Fraud

    The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DSS), which is the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State, investigates passport and visa fraud and helps protect the integrity of the U.S. passport and visa. These documents are regarded as among the most valuable travel and identity documents in the world.

    The U.S. passport allows citizens free passage in and out of the United States as well as into other countries around the world. That fact makes procuring a U.S. passport extremely desirable to terrorists and other criminals. So if you are wondering whether it is a crime to carry a U.S. passport that is not rightfully yours, perhaps with a false name or altered photo, then of course the answer is yes.

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