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The Complete Damaged Passport Replacement Guide

A damaged passport book with a badly torn cover on a table in front of 2 undamaged passports

If your passport is significantly damaged, it is automatically invalidated and can't be used for international travel. You will need to apply for a damaged passport replacement as soon as possible.

With over two decades of assisting travelers with their passport needs, we understand the nuances and complexities involved in this process.

This guide is designed to provide you with all the information you need, whether you're dealing with a water-damaged passport, a torn one, or any other form of damage that will make your passport unusable.

Click for reliable expedited passport courier service.

 

What Qualifies as a Damaged Passport?

An damaged passport book laying open with a badly ripped page

The definition of what actually qualifies as a "significantly damaged passport" is fuzzy. Even the Federal Regulations that are used to assess a damaged passport do not offer a lot of help on this subject.

In the section on passport invalidity, the regulation states, "A United States passport is invalid as soon as:

The passport has been materially changed in physical appearance or composition, or contains a damaged, defective or otherwise nonfunctioning chip, or includes unauthorized changes, obliterations, entries or photographs, or has observable wear or tear that renders it unfit for use as a travel document, and the Department either takes possession of the passport or sends a written notice to the bearer.

The most confusing part of the definition of a damaged passport is the term "observable wear and tear". In our over 20 years of speaking with readers, passport experts, and passport officials, we have received pretty consistent answers to the question, "How observable does damage have to be in order for a passport to be rendered invalid?"

Examples of Normal Passport Wear and Tear

Are dog-earred pages sufficient wear and tear to render the passport unusable? Not usually.

What if the gold on the emblem has been rubbed off? Not a big deal.

While each of these examples may fall under the category of "normal wear and tear," it will still be a subjective call made every time you try to use your passport. If you aren't comfortable with that, consider replacement soon.

Types of Significant Passport Damage

There are many clear-cut cases where a passport definitely is too damaged to use. Some of the most common include:

  • Washed Passport: if you accidentally washed a passport and now have faded pages, loose binding, and/or smeared ink, your passport is too damaged to use.

    While it can be difficult to determine the degree that water damage has affected a passport, if the structure or clarity of the document is comprimised, you will need a replacement.

  • Unofficial Markings: If pages in your passport have been defaced by stickers, ink, paint, mold, or stains that cannot be removed, you will likely need a replacement.
  • Stuck Pages: If pages in your passport are stuck together and cannot be separated (particularly if it impacts the personal data page or visa stamps), you will need a new passport.
  • Rips, Tears, and Holes: physical alterations or damages to your passport's cover, pages, or binding are definitely considered significant passport damage. This is especially true if the damage is found on the cover or personal data page.
  • Damaged RFID Chip: A damaged RFID chip will always result in a passport being deemed too damaged for use. Unfortunately, the average citizen is not going to know if the RFID chip in their passport is "damaged, defective or otherwise nonfunctioning" until it is scanned at the airport.

How to Replace a Damaged Passport: Step-by-Step

An damaged passport book laying open with an obvious coffee stain

Replacing a damaged passport can be a straightforward process if you know the right steps to follow. This guide will walk you through each step, ensuring you can complete the process and get your new, undamaged passport.

Step 1: Determine the Extent of the Damage

  • Assess the Damage: Evaluate whether your passport is indeed damaged to the extent that it requires replacement. Examples of significant damage include water damage, torn pages, a detached cover, or unscannable biometric information.

    As a rule, if you think your passport might meet the threshold for "significant damage," replace it.

  • Documentation: If possible, take photographs of the damage for your records. Also, copy any relevant information inside the book you may need or wish to preserve.

    Once you submit your replacement application, your damaged passport may or may not be returned to you.

Step 2: Gather Required Documentation

Step 3: Prepare a Statement Explaining the Damage

  • Written Statement: Prepare a brief statement describing how the passport got damaged. This is an critical part of your application. The U.S. Department of State needs to verify that you hav a legitimate reason for a new passport.

Step 4: Visit a Passport Acceptance Facility or Agency

Step 5: Submit Your Application and Pay the Fees

  • Submission: Hand in your completed DS-11 form, photographs, proof of identity, damaged passport, and the written statement.
  • Fees: Pay the applicable passport replacement fees. This will be the same cost as a new passport (including a $35 execution fee per passport).

    These prices are currently:

    Step 6: Choose Standard or Expedited Processing

    • Consider Processing Time: Choose between standard processing (currently 6 to 8 weeks) or expedited service (currently 2 to 3 weeks) based on your urgency.
    • Additional Fee for Expedited Service: Be prepared to pay an additional fee if you choose expedited processing.
    • If you need a passport faster than 2 to 3 weeks, skip ahead to the next section, Replace a Damaged Passport Fast.

    Step 7: Track Your Application

    • Application Tracking: Once your application is submitted, you can track its status online. This helps you stay informed about the processing stage of your new passport.

    Step 8: Receive Your New Passport

    • Delivery: Your new passport will be mailed to the address you provided. It typically arrives in a secure package.

      Once your new passport arrives, be sure to check for errors. Passport mistakes will be corrected for free if you act fast enough.

    • Old Passport: In most cases, your damaged passport will be returned to you, marked or clipped to signify that it's no longer valid. There is no guarantee your document will return.

    Replace a Damaged Passport Fast

    Current passport application processing times range from 6 to 8 weeks. These times are subject to change depending upon how many people are applying and the current workload of the U.S. Department of State.

    Expedited passport processing is currently taking 2 to 3 weeks.

    What if you need a new travel document much quicker?

    Regional passport agencies can process same-day passport applications for citizens of the United States who have urgent travel plans.

    There are two ways to get this done:

    1. Schedule an appointment at the nearest regional passport agency. You will have to travel to the agency and submit the application yourself. This can add significant, hidden costs to the passport application process, including transportation, time off from work, and possibly food and lodging while you wait for your passport application to be processed.
    2. Authorize a reputable passport expediter to submit your passport application for you. These passport experts have offices near multiple regional passport agencies and the knowhow to get your passport faster than you might be able to get it on your own. What's more, they can save you valuable time and money.

      Be sure to check out our guide to the top passport expediting services to get our expert recommendations based on over 20 years of helping readers like you.

    Damaged Passport Replacement - Frequently Asked Questions

    In our years of experience in passport services, we've gathered common questions about damaged passport replacement.

    Below are some specific questions and their answers, with links for additional information where relevant.

    What exactly qualifies as a 'damaged' passport?

    Answer: A passport is considered damaged if it has significant physical defects like water damage, torn pages, or unauthorized markings. Minor wear and tear usually don't qualify.

    Can I travel with a damaged passport?

    Answer: Traveling with a noticeably damaged passport is risky and it might not be accepted by authorities. Replace it before you travel if it's damaged.

    Is there an expedited service available for damaged passport replacement?

    Answer: Expedited services are available for an additional fee. Currently a replacement can be processed in 2 to 3 weeks.

    How do I prove my passport was damaged if it's not visibly obvious?

    Answer: Provide a written statement describing the damage, especially if it's internal (like an issue with a faulty RFID chip).

    Will my damaged passport be returned to me after replacement?

    Answer: Usually, the damaged passport is retained and not returned. If a passport is returned, it will have corner cut or a hole punched in it to indicate its invalidity.

    Can I repair my damaged passport instead of replacing it?

    Answer: No. Self-repairs will invalidate your passport. You must apply for a replacement.

    Are there additional fees for replacing a damaged passport?

    Answer: Standard new passport fees apply. There are no additional fees for damage, but expedited processing and/or speedier delivery options cost extra.

    How should I send my damaged passport for replacement?

    Answer: Mail it with your application in a secure package, without bending or folding documents.

    What if my damaged passport had additional visa pages, can they be transferred?

    Answer: Visa pages cannot be transferred between passports. Contact the relevant embassies for visa transfers.

    Can I apply for a damaged passport replacement online?

    Answer: Online applications are not an option for replacing damaged passports. Apply in person or by mail.

    Don't Risk Traveling with a Damaged Passport

    Due to the subjective nature of damaged passport rules, we always encourage American citizens to replace their damaged travel document if they have any doubt at all about its usability.

    Yes, you will have to pay the fees to get a new passport, but it will almost always be significantly less than the cost of having to reschedule or cancel an international trip at the last minute.

    If your passport has been damaged and you want to apply for a replacement, you can do this by following the same steps that are required in order to obtain a new passport. The only additional step is you have to submit the damaged passport along with the application form and supporting documents.

    If you are in a hurry to get your replacement passport, we strongly encourage you to get help from a professional passport expediting service. The best passport expediters can get your passport replacement in your hands, wherever you may be, sometimes as quickly as the same day.

    Be aware, you might not get your damaged passport back. For security reasons, damaged passports may be retained or destroyed by the U.S. Department of State.

    Pro Tip: Passport with only normal wear and tear can be renewed by mail.

    Top 5 Questions About Expedited Passport Couriers

    1. How can you get a passport when you're in a hurry?
    2. What exactly does a passport expediter do?
    3. Are passport expediting services legitimate?
    4. How can I identify a reliable passport expeditor?
    5. Is expedited passport service worth it?

    Get answers to these questions and more in our Ultimate U.S. Traveler's Guide to Passport Expediters.

    You can also visit our library of articles about passport expediting.

    In a Hurry? Get Reliable Expedited Passport Courier Service:Expedite My U.S.Passport Now!

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About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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