Traveling to the US with a green card and a valid but soon to expire passport

My wife and I have a trip back home to Norway planned. For her, a US citizen and university professor it is in part because she has a grant that requires international participation, for me it’s to see friends and family and renew my Norwegian passport without having to travel for hours to an embassy or consulate here in the US.

Now it looks like the university may, last minute, rescind travel permission for research purposes. My wife can do it as personal travel, but can’t stay away from the university as long if it’s no longer part of a research project. This means I either have to:

  • stay behind when she returns to wait for my new passport to be produced
  • cancel my plans to get the passport renewed in Norway and travel back on my own soon (I think it’s in May) to be expired passport

Now if I was going to the US for vacation as a Norwegian I could apparently do so as long as I planned on returning before the passport expires. But I’m not finding an authoritative answer if that also means that I can enter with a soon to be expired passport as a legal permanent resident.

I think the answer is yes, but it’s not the kind of thing one wants to find out one is mistaken about when either registering with the airline before departure or, worse, when face to face with Border Patrol. Anyone have experience with this situation or have better googling skills than me?

Neither, but I can’t imagine it would be a problem. You only need the passport to cross the border.

Once you’re across the border, the document that identifies you as having the right to be in the US is your green card. The US doesn’t care if its own citizens have passports or not, as long as they aren’t trying to travel internationally. I don’t see why it would be different for legal permanent residents.

If you were on some visa that allowed you to stay in the country only a short time, I could see that a passport set to expire in less than a short time would raise questions at customs, but that wouldn’t apply to you.

Can’t vouch for the accuracy, since this isn’t an official source, but I did find this:

But that’s clearly not aimed at permanent residents. It says you have to have a passport valid for six months after the time you plan to leave. But if you are a permanent resident, you’re not obligated to ever leave at all, so that can’t apply.

I do note, though, that even if we say the general rule – that you can’t get in with a passport expiring in less than six months – does apply to green card holders, Norway is still on the list of countries whose citizens are exempt from that rule (and which appear to be much more numerous than the countries to which the rule DOES apply).

It looks like I just have to trust that the rules are applied in a logical fashion, which I I’m a bit hesitant to do when it comes to these matters.

If it were me, I would not travel unless I was absolutely certain I could return. Too bad, it is impossible to get a definitive answer from a government source. Although I know for a fact that in Canada, the border service ignores statutory law. Maybe @Eva_Luna can help.

I am traveling right now with just my iPad, so poking around is a little more awkward than usual. I would check with the airline and see what they say. They are the ones who have to decide whether to let you on the plane. Alternatively, I would see if there is a way to speed up your passport renewal because of your travel schedule. But I bet the airline can point you to the appropriate government information source.

Here’s an official source for the six-month passport rule, anyway.