If you think you are safe to travel with a damaged passport, think again. The best thing you can do is to keep it locked up in a bank vault or, failing that, a fireproof safe. If you need to prove your identity on a regular basis, find something other than your passport, like a driver’s license or government identity card.
Why should you protect your passport from damage? You might think that the water damage from being run through the washing machine at is innocuous but it may not look that way to an immigration agent. Immigration agents are more likely to refuse you entry into a foreign country than they are to prevent you from leaving home.
While you may know full well that you are not in danger in the nation you are about to visit, the people sworn to protect their fellow countrymen from harm must be assured you pose no danger. Having a passport that is acceptable will be part of the clearance process.
Wear and Tear
Immigration inspectors know there are people who, in the process of duplicating a valid passport for nefarious purposes may sometimes make them look like they have been innocently torn, worn or washed. The flimsy lamination that is starting to curl down the page may be the result of pulling it out of your pocket time after time to prove your age to be allowed into a nightclub. To the passport inspector, it could mean a botched job of changing a photograph.
What Can Happen
One of the funniest tales of all time (funny, that is, to those of us who did not go through it) is the case of the luckless gentleman whose pet pooch had chewed through half of the coat of arms on the cover of his passport just three days before he was due to fly to a pacific island. Several dozen phone calls later, he was assured by the airline that as long as the document was still valid and the number, photograph and expiration date were still legible, he was good to go.
Unfortunately, the officials at the other end were less forgiving. He was put on a plane back to his hometown. At a refueling stop, he managed to flatter his way into Malaysia, where he spent the night and obtained a replacement at the local consulate and eventually got his well deserved exotic vacation.
The picture is equally grim if you need to get a visa to enter a foreign country. Some nations are friendly. Others, like Russia where visas are a separate document from a passport, are not.
Whether it’s water damage or a small tear, a damaged passport can cost you hundreds of dollars in unused airfares if you are deported. It is far better to get a replacement passport or even a passport renewal than to hope you will be able to use the damaged passport and then be stuck.
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