How to replace a damaged passport

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A small tear in his passport prevented Martin Betch from boarding his final flight from Barcelona to Geneva. An airline representative told him he had a damaged passport.

Betch pushed back. Shouldn’t the airline accept his passport if they could read his name and see his photo? No, she said. A tear – even a small one – invalidated his entire passport.

“My passport was worn out during the pandemic and I neglected to check it before leaving,” recalls Betch, a Swiss photographer living in Spain. “I had to apply for a reissue and wait three weeks before booking another flight.”

His problem is becoming more and more common. Many travelers’ passports have not been used during the pandemic. If they have been corrupted, they may not be valid. Worse, you may not find out until you arrive at the airport or border.

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When is a passport considered damaged?

What is damage compared to normal wear and tear? Does a crease or crease in your passport mean it’s invalid? And if so, what should you do?

The State Department says if your passport is badly damaged, you must apply for a replacement. Damage “includes water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch or other injuries.”

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“A passport will be damaged by anything that alters the integrity or composition of the passport,” says Rachel Arndt, deputy assistant secretary for passport services.

Normal wear and tear includes creases in your passport, according to the State Department.

“The State Department distinguishes between immaterial and material damage,” Arndt said in an email. “Intangible damage, such as normal wear and tear, a phone number on a visa page, or a small tear on a visa page, does not significantly change the integrity or composition of the passport. Physical damage affecting the integrity or composition of the book, such as removal of visa pages, blurring of photo, or detachment of cover.”

What do I do if I have a damaged passport?

If your journey has not yet started, you will need to go to the nearest passport collection point – usually a post office or public library – or to a passport authority.

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The process is similar to applying for a new passport. You will need a signed statement explaining the damage and you will need to fill out a new application called Form DS-11. The Department of State also requires that you provide proof of your citizenship, such as a passport. B. a birth certificate or certificate of naturalization and that you provide photocopies of the supporting documents. You will need to present your ID and a photocopy of your ID and passport photo and pay the applicable fee – $130 for adults, plus a $35 execution fee.

What happens if I travel with a damaged passport?

How do customs determine if your passport is damaged? Ganga Raj Thapa has seen the trial hundreds of times. At most borders, an officer will examine your passport under a direct light for signs of damage or mutilation.

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“They’re looking for perforations, loose-leaf pages, incorrect entries and spaces,” says Thapa, who runs adventure travel company Nepal Hiking Team. “If signs of mutilation are found, the passport will be handed over to an investigative agency for further analysis.”

If the damage is severe enough, a country can refuse you entry. But you might be able to make your way through customs if the damage is minor.

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Gyan Penrose-Kafka remembers a trip to Central America. The outside of his passport was frayed from the hot, humid weather and from keeping his ID in a money belt.

“The edge of this plastic sheet peeled off the paper very easily,” recalls Penrose-Kafka, a business analyst from Seminole, Florida. “I was denied entry to Nicaragua.”

But he couldn’t turn back and return to Honduras because his visa was no longer valid. After some negotiations, he paid the Honduran border guard a $20 “fee” to enter the country.

If you don’t want to risk negotiations, you can (and should) apply for an emergency passport at the nearest US consulate or embassy. The process is similar to the surrogate process in the United States, but you can usually get your passport quicker. You must appear in person to receive your replacement pass. You can make an appointment online, which allows you to avoid long waiting times.

Can I fix a damaged passport?

Can you try to repair the damage to a passport yourself e.g. B. with tape or glue? No, says Arndt. Under federal law, it is invalid as soon as it is substantively modified. “An attempt to fix it would not restore its validity,” she says.

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The good news: if you haven’t used your passport in a while, you’re probably fine.

“It’s rare that being pigeonholed causes harm,” says John Rose, chief risk and security officer at Altour, a travel management company. What if your passport gets wet? A small amount of water should not harm a passport due to its polycarbonate coating. But if you don’t dry it, the passport could become moldy, which would render it invalid.

Tears and cuts in a passport are a “serious problem,” he adds.

How to avoid a damaged passport?

You can avoid the hassle of replacing your passport by storing it properly.

Find a safe place away from liquids, children and pets. When you travel, keep your passport in a secure compartment in your luggage. If you go on a beach holiday or go diving, you should put your passport in a waterproof bag.

The solution, of course, is to get rid of paper passports. Ukraine has created a digital passport that can be read from a smartphone. Several countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, are testing digital passports that use biometrics to verify your identity at the border. You cannot damage an electronic passport.

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