How to replace a damaged passport

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

Bet postponed. 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 – canceled his entire passport.

“My passport was exposed to wear and tear during the pandemic, and I failed to check it before leaving,” recalls Betch, a Swiss photographer who lives in Spain. “I had to file a reissue request and wait three weeks before booking another flight.”

His problem is becoming more and more common. Many traveler passports have not been used during the pandemic. If they have been damaged, chances are they are not valid. Worse still, you may not know until you get to the airport or the border.

You asked: My passport is stuck in limbo. How can I rush?

When is a passport considered damaged?

What constitutes damage compared to normal wear and tear? Does a bend or crease in your passport mean it’s not valid? And what if it is?

The State Department says that if your the passport is badly damagedyou will need to request a replacement. damage “includes water damage, significant tear, unofficial marks on data page, missing (torn) visa pages, puncture, or other injury.”

“A passport is damaged by anything that alters the integrity or composition of the passport,” says Rachel Arndt, Assistant Undersecretary for Passport Services.

Normal wear and tear includes creases in your passport while traveling, 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 telephone number written on a visa page, or a small tear on a visa page, does not materially alter the integrity or composition of the passport. Physical damage impairs the integrity or composition of the book, such as removal of visa pages, erasure of photography, or separation of cover.

What should I do if I have a damaged passport?

If your trip hasn’t started yet, you’ll need to go to the nearest passport acceptance center – usually a post office or public library – or a passport agency.

Americans will soon be able to renew their passports online, thanks to the Biden order

The process is similar to applying for a new passport. You will need a signed statement explaining the damage and you will need to complete a new application, called Form DS-11. The Department of State also requires that you show proof of your citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate, and provide photocopies of the proof. You will be required to present your ID and a photocopy of your ID, as well as a photo ID, and you will be required to pay applicable fees – $130 for adults, plus a $35 fulfillment 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 process hundreds of times. At most borders, an official will examine your passport in direct light for any signs of damage or mutilation.

“They look for punch holes, loose leaves, false entries and blank spaces,” says Thapa, who runs the adventure travel company. Nepal Trekking Team. “If signs of mutilation are detected, the passport is handed over to an investigation office for further analysis.”

If the damage is severe enough, a country may deny you entry. But you might also be able to negotiate your way through customs if the damage is minor.

Passport delayed? 5 places to go without one.

Gyan Penrose-Kafka recalls a trip to Central America. The outside of his passport had frayed from the hot, humid weather and having to put his ID card in a money belt.

“The edge of that plastic film peeled off the paper ever so slightly,” recalls Penrose-Kafka, a business analyst from Seminole, Florida. “I was refused entry to Nicaragua.”

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

If you don’t want to risk negotiations, you can (and probably should) apply for an emergency passport at the nearest US consulate or embassy. The process is similar to the replacement process in the United States, but you can usually get your passport faster. You will need to appear in person to obtain your replacement passport. You can make an appointment online, which will save you a long wait.

Can I repair a damaged passport?

Can you try to repair damage to a passport yourself, such as with tape or glue? No, said Arndt. Below federal law, it becomes invalid as soon as it is materially modified. “Attempting a repair would not restore its validity,” she says.

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

“It’s rare that just sitting in a drawer causes damage,” says John Rose, risk and security manager at Altour, a travel management company. What if your passport is wet? A small amount of water should not damage a passport due to its polycarbonate coating. But if you don’t dry it, the passport could get moldy, which will void it.

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

How to avoid a damaged passport?

You can avoid the trouble 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 of your luggage. If you are going on vacation to the beach or scuba diving, remember to put your passport in a waterproof bag.

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

About Mildred B.

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