I have read everything I can find, but still don't have a definitive answer, so:

I am a dual citizen, USA and Australia. I am about to leave Australia, but just noticed my Australian passport is expired. Can I leave on my USA passport? I am not concerned about reentry, just the leaving part. If I ever want to go back (not planning on it now), I realize I will have to renew the Australian passport to do so.

I have read both "should leave on Australian passport" and "must leave on Australian passport", and the Australian High Commission in the UK says it is possible- Q: I am an Australian citizen but as I did not obtain an Australian passport before departing Australia," ...... A: "In the absence of an Australian passport, airlines are unable to assess a person's claim to Australian citizenship at the time of check-in and may decline to carry the traveller. It would therefore be in your best interests to apply for an Australian passport to enable you to return to Australia."

Does anybody have first-hand knowledge of what happens? Would I actually be denied the ability to return to my country? Would I just become a prisoner in Australia destined to live in the airport or at the US embassy?

I've read all the 'should-s' and 'must-s', but what actually happens if you do try to leave on your foreign passport?

  • 2
    You won't become a prisoner in Australia, of course. Worst case is that you'll have to wait until your new passport is ready.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 16:58
  • It was facetious of course, but suppose I don't apply for one? I have no other need or desire for an au passport. Would I actually be an effective prisoner unless I relent, lose my (nonrefundable) ticket, and pay for the au passport? What would happen if someone could not pay for the au passport, hotel and living costs, and a new airline ticket while waiting?
    – rogerJ
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 17:26
  • 2
    Well a single-nationality Australian wouldn't have that problem since they'd have no other home country to return to. But for a dual national, it's a good question. If the situation were reversed, you'd be technically breaking federal law to leave the US without a US passport, but there's no penalty for violating the law and, without exit checks, the US doesn't enforce it.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 17:33
  • That's a very interesting question. If there are any exit checks, it seems to me that leaving with your expired passport might be easier than leaving only with your US passport. At least the former should be enough to establish your identity and status and once it's clear you haven't been staying illegally (how could you, as a citizen?) and there is no outstanding warrant or anything, on what grounds could you be prevented to leave? The airline will want to see another passport to make sure you can be admitted at your destination but does the police mind?
    – Gala
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 18:06

7 Answers 7


For the benefit of anybody in this situation who is wondering, and would like a real data point instead of conjecture or pontification, here is what actually happened:

When trying to check out through immigration my 'lack of entry' was noticed, and I was sent to another line for exceptions. This seconds line was fairly well populated and was pretty dynamic as well, so there were more than a few 'exceptions'.

They asked (with no prompting or input from me) if I entered on an Australian passport and if it was expired. I said yes, and offered a photocopy of the info page of my Australian passport which I took along with me. I had the actual passport as well, but on the advice of another person who thought they may keep the expired passport if I showed it, I only offered the photocopy. They used the number on it to look up something on their computer, talked to each other for a few seconds, then said 'have a nice trip', and I was on my way.

The whole process took about 30 seconds, both sides maintained a pleasant demeanor, there was no indication of risk or issue.


Aug 18th 2017. My new Australian passport is approved but caught in the post. I was poorly advised at the post office and told I could travel on my British Passport so did not opt for the Express service. Two days before travel I was made aware of the issue that I could probably leave but not return with my British Passport. I rang the passport office. All they could say is that I could now not get an express passport as it was too late and my other was in production (I guess you cannot have 2 going through at once). I rang immigration and they basically said I couldn't travel. No options were open to me. I rang the airline to see if I could get on my return flight without a visa (but with citizenship) and all they did was read out their policy - I couldn't get to speak to anybody who could make a decision based on the facts. All I wanted to do was find a way to get me back to Sydney airport and then I could work with immigration upon my return (by then my Aus passport would likely be at home so I could have somebody bring it).

The day before I travelled, I headed to the airport and the Virgin Australia Service Desk. Suzanne could not have been more helpful. She called EOC (Emigration Operations Control) and they said that the airline should simply call EOC when I check in on my return leg and they will authorise my Citizenship certificate (which I should carry). They said it happens a lot and it is this simple. Best to arrange in advance as notes were added to my booking to avoid long delays at check in on my return leg. They advised I checked in early and they said EOC is on speed dial at every check in desk so they are used to having to do this sort of thing. I asked if I should go and speak to immigration control whilst at the airport to ensure I could then get through border security OK upon my return to Sydney. They said it wouldn't be an issue as once I have cleared through check in (ie. via EOC), the digital stamp is there. Even so, with my citizenship certificate they would only need to check it again.


Having this experience (but a few years back), I have an Iranian and Australian passport. Those time they didnt even know I have an Australian passport and I could travel on my Iranian passport in and out with no problem (I just didn't want my Aussie passport be stamped all over:)). These days, they have records of your dual citizenship, and they will tell you we will prefer you to travel on your Australian passport but not if you couldn't provide it or possibly if it is expired. Most likely they will not stop you leaving the country. On the other hand if you are an Australian citizen, they will never stop you entering the country even if you lose your passport or even expired. You can renew your Australian passport out of the country in the embassy though.

Just in case you want to mess around with two passports, they have all your travel history. Even though you use different passport they will know when you entered and when left.


over the weekend I searched for a definitive answer and I could not get one. My scenario is that on Saturday when collating all of the documentation for a trip back to the UK on Tuesday I noticed that my sons Australian passport expired today (Monday). We fly tomorrow. My son is a dual citizen with a British passport.

I found the information I received so contradictory. The airline Guest Contact Centre said that it is fine, your son has a passport that will allow him into the UK, and you should be able to get back into Australia with the expired passport along with proof of citizenship.

The travel agent said we could 'risk' it, but if we went to the airport and then could not board, we would basically lose our tickets. Other posts I read suggested that it is a manual process, but immigration resolve the paper trail.

I called the Passport office later on Saturday and they gave me an appt for Tuesday. I was not offered Monday as I did not have any extenuating circumstances as to why I needed a passport. I think if there was a death or if someone was in hospital they would be a little more sympathetic. The scheduled appt was 3 hours before my flight.

The only single piece of information that I got from a number of people was to head to the Passport office first thing on Monday morning and see if you can get the passport issued the same day. So armed with all the documentation, photos, birth certificate, itinerary, my son and I headed to the Passport office. We were the second people there and at 8:30 they let us in. 3 of the first 4 people in the office were people without an appt and were flying within the next 48 hours. As we were being served the volume of people in the queue for no appt continued to grow, so I knew this scenario happened more often than you would think.

My sons passport was issued at 3:30 today, we are now able to catch a flight tomorrow. This may not be an option for someone not living to a major city, but from my experience, you either have to go this pathway or hope that "should" is flexible.

I dont know if this post will help anybody, but the passport office can issue a passport within 24 hours, but get there early and be prepared to wait. - AJ


You're not going to get a "definitive answer", because the practical answer is: it depends.

The letter of the law is clear: if you are Australian, you have to use an Australian passport to arrive in and depart from Australia. And if you're a single national, you don't really have any other options, so end of story.

As a dual national, things get more interesting. From a legal point of view, it makes no difference since Australian law applies to Australians even if they hold other nationalities... but in practice, it does make it possible to enter and depart. So it's going to come down to convincing the border officer that letting you in or out without a valid passport is the right thing to do.

First-hand experience: my son, an Australian citizen, was allowed to leave Australia without his passport because he's a dual national and still had a valid re-entry permit that (through bureaucratic oversight) had not been cancelled. I'm also pretty sure that if you show up at the airport with a recently-expired Aussie passport and a pressing need to travel (wedding, funeral, etc), you'll probably be let through with a telling off and advised to renew your passport ASAP at your destination. But if you rock up the airport, make it clear that you're doing this intentionally and start attempting to assert your (in this case, non-existent) rights as an American citizen, you will equally likely be told to go pound sand and apply for an Australian passport.

All things told, the safest option is to just apply for the new Australian passport. Using priority service, it will be ready in just two days.


I have entered Australia 3 times in the last 10 years on a Dutch passport, because my Australian passport was expired. I have not at any time taken my expired passport with me. The only hassle was a slightly longer queue at passport control.


How can you leave on your non-Australian passport? It has no entry stamp to say you entered Australia, and it has no 'must leave by' date in there. As far as your passport is concerned, you never entered Australia, because you did not use your non-Australian passport to get a visa to enter Australia, and use it to enter the country.

If you never entered, then you can't leave.

The only people who are legally in Australia without a valid stamp in their passport, are Australians. And if they need to leave Australia, they need to get a passport.

  • 1
    I get the logic, but clearly did enter because you are standing there. A USA citizen, with a USA passport and a ticket to go to the USA "can't leave". So now what? Does one live in the airport for the rest of one's life? become a charge of the state? live at the US embassy? get deported, oh wait, you "can't leave", so that's out?
    – rogerJ
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 21:10
  • 1
    It's really a question of 'pragmatically, what actually happens' directed at someone who has done/tried to do it, to learn what their experience was. Bench pressing logic doesn't get there. (I have now heard from two such "can't leave" people, both of whom left)
    – rogerJ
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 21:14
  • @rogerJ I agree. (Also, the absence of an entry stamp doesn't really prove anything; you might have replaced your passport since you entered.) It's also possible that if the USA citizen can convince the officer that he is also an Australian citizen, he would be allowed to leave.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 18:22

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