A passport is required to travel to most countries outside the United States. If your passport is damaged, a customs agent may not accept it and you may be prevented from travelling to your destination. If the passport becomes damaged while travelling, you may be prevented from returning home on schedule.
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The signature on your passport can be compared to your signature on other documents to verify your identity. Forgers purposely smudge signatures to cover up mistakes or sloppy work. Customs agents are aware of this scheme and will scrutinise any passport with a smudged signature. Any spill, stains or ripped pages that interrupt your signature could also cause this same scrutiny. If any of these circumstances exist, consider replacing your passport.
The passport photo is most important for identification purposes. It is not uncommon for passport photos to become damaged from wear or spills. Thieves will also purposely damage a photo to cover up slight discrepancies to fool customs agents. Damaged photos come under more scrutiny for this reason, and if your photo is deemed suspect, you could be held up at a border station for an inordinate amount of time.
Replacing a Damaged Passport
To replace a damaged passport, you must reapply and go through the same steps as a new applicant, plus fill out an additional form. You must obtain two passport-size photos, complete an "Application for a U.S. Passport" (Form DS-11) and complete a "Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport" (Form DS-64) (see Resources). On Form DS-11, enter the number of your current damaged passport book in Section 21 and check "Other" and list "Damage" as the reason for replacing the document. Even though your passport is damaged, you will need to complete the DS-64 and explain the extent of the damage in Section 2 of the form. Proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is also required.
Replacing a U.S. Passport While Abroad
If your passport is damaged while you're travelling, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate office in that country about obtaining a new passport. The office will be able to help you get a replacement passport, or get you past custom agents in the host country. If no U.S. embassy or consulate office is available, go to an allied country's embassy or consulate office.
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