NEVER Discard Your Old Passport: A Must-Read for US Citizens Living Abroad

Living outside your country as an expat can come with a lot of paperwork, but there is one thing you should never do: don’t discard your old passport. Even after you’ve renewed it with a new one, keeping your old passport can save you from headaches and fines.


Using Your Passport as Identification

In many foreign countries, including Costa Rica, expats use their passports as a form of identification for various purposes, such as bank accounts, property purchases, legal documentation, and more. It’s an accepted practice, but it can cause problems if the passport expires or gets lost and you get a new one reissued.


Passport Number Changes

Unlike in Costa Rica, the passport number for many counties changes when it’s renewed or reissued. Discarding your original passport can cause significant problems when it comes time to reference the old passport used in previous documentation. You might find yourself in a similar situation to the Costa Rican expat who was forced to pay a $375 fine due to not having their old passport.


Quoted Testimonial

Here’s a quoted testimonial from the expat in Costa Rica mentioned earlier:

“WARNING!!! Remember to keep your US passport. We bought a condo here 11 years ago and had to renew our passports a few months later. Then this year, we had to file forms reaffirming that our corporation for the condo was inactive. We needed our original passport as ID (which we no longer had). In Costa Rica, passport numbers stay the same as in the US. We needed to prove that we were indeed who we said we were. There are several ways to do this, but we had our lawyer do it faster. Unfortunately, it will take 2 – 3 weeks, and as we need to complete the renewal in a certain period, we will be late and probably fined $375 USD. We learned along the way never to throw away documents in this country, but that was after we got rid of our old passports. This is my tale of woe. 


Update Your Documents

As a rule of thumb, constantly update your documents, including bank accounts, when you get a new passport or cédula de identidad to avoid this problem altogether. This advice applies if you’re a foreigner using your passport for documentation.


In Conclusion

Keeping your old passport is crucial for citizens living abroad. Not only can it help avoid fines and headaches, but it can also serve as proof of identity. Remember, never discard your old passport!

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I discard my old US passport after it has been renewed?

You don’t need to discard your old US passport after renewal, especially if you live outside the United States.

Why should I keep my old US passport? Answer: Your old US passport can serve as proof of identity for various purposes, such as bank accounts, property purchases, and legal documentation.

What happens if I discard my old US passport?

If you discard your old US passport, you may need help in proving your identity when referencing old documentation that used the original passport.

Is it common to use a passport as a form of identification in foreign countries?

Yes, in many foreign countries, including Costa Rica, it is common for expats to use their passports to identify before obtaining a cédula de identidad.

Do passport numbers stay the same when a US passport is renewed?

No, unlike in some other countries, the passport number for a US passport does not stay the same when it is renewed or re-issued.

Can I update my bank accounts and other documents when I get a new passport?

Yes, it is recommended to update your bank accounts and other documents when you get a new passport or a cédula de identidad to avoid potential problems down the line.

What if I reference my old passport for legal or financial purposes?

If you need to reference your old passport for legal or financial purposes, it is best to keep it in a safe and accessible place.

Is keeping old passports a common practice among expats?

Yes, keeping old passports is common among expats who use their passports to identify in foreign countries.


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