What Should I Do about a Damaged Passport?

Alex Tree

In most cases, a damaged passport cannot be used and must be replaced with a new one. The process of replacing a damaged passport is similar to applying for a new one. You will need documents to verify your identity and citizenship, plus an appropriate passport photo. If possible, try to remember how the damage took place and when, because some governments require people with damaged passports to fill out a form detailing this information. Lastly, replacing a passport is rarely free, so you will need to have the fees on hand for payment, which can be relatively expensive if you need the document in a hurry.

Nations issue passports so that their citizens and subjects can travel abroad.
Nations issue passports so that their citizens and subjects can travel abroad.

You will most likely be required to hand over the damaged passport with your application for a new one. Giving up your passport helps the passport service determine your identity and speed the process along. Be prepared to show documents proving citizenship and identity, like your birth certificate and driver’s license. If your passport was an older document that included a photograph of your child, you may need to get a separate passport for him or her. Governments are moving away from two-person passes as acceptable travel documents, so child passports are now available.

A passport photo.
A passport photo.

Passports require a photograph that meets certain guidelines. You will need to have a copy of the photograph used on your damaged passport or a new photograph entirely. There are professionals who know passport photograph requirements well and can take and print an appropriate picture within an hour.

When the passport service processes your new passport application, they will assess the damage done to your old passport. In general, they are looking for signs of tampering, which is against the law in many countries. You may be asked to fill out a form detailing what happened to the passport. If there are obvious signs of fraudulent alterations, the form might be used as evidence against you, especially if a crime was committed beyond altering the passport. There is nothing to worry about if the passport was damaged accidentally.

Replacing a damaged passport typically costs just as much as getting a new one. If you need the passport within a month, additional charges might apply. In general, the faster you want the new passport to be made available to you, the more you have to pay. Child passports often cost about half what an adult’s cost, but the expedited service charges are usually the same. Some passport services are able to make and send passports within one week.

Most damaged passports cannot be used and must be replaced.
Most damaged passports cannot be used and must be replaced.

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