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Damaged Passports

If you have a damaged passport, you should replace it immediately. Many airlines will not allow you to board with a damaged US passport, and many countries will deny entry to travelers with invalid credentials. You may even be denied entry back into the United States if your passport is marred during travel. This is because a damaged United States passport may be fake, out-of-date or impossible to verify.

Not all passport damage requires immediate replacement. However, if the damage affects a machine’s ability to read the passport or an employee’s ability to verify its legitimacy, then it does require replacement. You can replace damaged passport books at U.S. embassies for travelers on vacation. There is no excuse to travel with destroyed credentials, and attempting to do so can seriously interrupt a traveler’s plans. To find out how to replace a damaged passport, use the below information as a damaged passport replacement guide for details on what qualifies a passport as damaged and the application process to obtain another copy.

When is a passport damaged?

The United States recognizes a difference between significant damage in a passport and normal wear and tear. You do not have a damaged passport if your passport has normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear includes bending the passport pages, dog-earing the pages or scratches on the visa pages. Pages fanning out or containing small tears do not require replacement. If the gold lettering on the outside has rubbed off, then that also counts as normal wear and tear. So long as the damage is minimal and does not affect the functions of the first page or front booklet page, your passport does not need replacement.

However, you do need to replace a damaged passport if the damage renders the passport unreadable or unverifiable. This includes damage to the RFID chip embedded on the front page of your passport booklet or damage to the first page with your identifying information. Any water damage to the pages can require replacement, as water damage can ruin the RFID chip. In addition, you must replace your damaged U.S. passport if there are scratches or tears on the passport photo. Your passport also needs replacement if visa pages have been ripped out or if the passport has holes, serious tears or unofficial markings written on the first page.

If you are unsure whether you have a damaged US passport, apply for a replacement just in case. The definition of ‘damaged passport’ can be up to individual agents and foreign representatives to decide. If you believe an agent may consider your passport significantly damaged, then you should seek to replace your passport.

How to Replace a Damaged Passport

To replace a damaged passport, locate your nearest passport acceptance facility. Schedule an in-person appointment to apply for a new passport online or by phone. Bring the necessary documents to apply for a new passport, as well as your current, damaged credential. If you are traveling internationally and need to replace a damaged passport at a U.S. embassy, then the process can still take several weeks. Bring the following documents to replace a passport:

To replace your damaged passport, bring your documents to your appointment. You will complete Form DS-11 with an agent and then send in your application. After submitting your documentation and payment, wait four to six weeks to receive your new passport. You can request expedited services for an additional fee. If you need your passport sooner, then third-party passport services can replace a damaged passport in as little as one business day after a successful application.

If you need to replace your passport while traveling internationally, then contact the local U.S. Embassy in your country. Not all embassies require the same documents to replace damaged passports. For example, the Thailand embassy requires you to complete Form DS-82 instead. Additionally, fees and processing times will differ depending on the country and embassy you apply through.