Can You Travel With a Damaged Passport? [Ultimate Guide]

Damaged passport travel explained.
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10-year passport validity is nice, but it also means you have to protect your passport from any damage for an entire decade—-and a lot can happen to your travel document in the meantime! 


What do the authorities consider normal wear and tear, and what does passport damage mean? And most importantly: Can you still travel with a damaged passport? We’ll answer your questions below.

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What is a damaged passport?

The definition of “damage” may vary depending on whom you ask. Are small tears on passport pages or water stains enough to make your document unusable? According to the authorities, it all depends on where the damage is and to what extent. 

Here are examples of passport damage that affect its validity:

  • Missing pages or passport cover
  • Cuts, rips, or significant tears on pages or the cover
  • Water stains obstructing the contents of the pages
  • Major water damage
  • Peeling plastic 
  • Faded pages making any information illegible 
  • Stickers or other unofficial markings
  • Loose binding
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip damage

All of the above examples will likely render your passport invalid. It doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t travel anywhere now. Read the section below to see where you can go even if your passport is damaged.

Examples of unacceptable passport damage.

Pro tip: Protecting your official document from damage when traveling is essential. On your next journey, consider storing your passport in a ziplock bag or a plastic passport holder to avoid damage.

Damaged passport: domestic & international travel

Now that you can gauge whether your travel document qualifies as “damaged,” how does a damaged document affect your travel plans? Let’s look at two cases.

Domestic travel

As a rule of thumb, you don’t need a passport to fly within the US. To board a domestic flight, you’ll need a valid form of identification, such as a state-issued photo ID or a driver’s license. 

Note, however, that both these documents must meet REAL ID Act requirements. You can check if your state’s ID complies with these rules under this link

International travel

Can you leave the US with a damaged passport? The short answer is: No, you can’t.

Traveling abroad isn’t possible without a valid passport. In such a case, you’ll need to replace your current document with a new one (read on to see how). 

There are, however, two exceptions to the rule. While you can’t board international flights with a damaged passport, you can still visit Canada and Mexico via land and sea crossings. Check out if you need a passport to go to Canada and read about passport expiration rules for Mexico

Now, what happens to your visas if your passport is too damaged to use? Unfortunately, once you receive a new document, you’ll need to apply for your visas again. Remember to submit your old passport when doing so to make the visa application easier.

Pro tip: In the event your planned trip’s date is soon approaching, you may qualify for expedited service to get your new passport sooner. Read our guide on getting an emergency passport to see if you qualify. 

Damaged passport replacement

Now, if your passport is indeed too damaged to use for travel, your only option is to apply for a new passport in person (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a replacement passport). In a nutshell, you’ll need to:

  1. Fill out Form DS-11.
  2. Make an appointment at a passport agency or passport acceptance facility.
  3. Bring the necessary documents (i.e., your old passport and birth certificate).
  4. Pay the fees ($165).
  5. Attach one passport photo.

Pro tip: If you notice minor wear and tear on your passport, you don’t have to wait until it’s no longer valid. You can apply for an early passport renewal to get a new passport long before its expiration date.

Get started on your early renewal by snapping a US passport photo without leaving your home! Our biometric photo experts ensure the picture complies with all US State Department regulations—all done in 3 minutes or less!

A picture converted into a government-compliant passport photo in 3 seconds using Passport Photo Online mobile app.


What happens if you travel with a damaged passport?

If your passport has significant damage, you could be denied entry into a country or won’t be allowed to board your flight.

Can I leave the US with a damaged passport?

You can’t board any international flight without a valid passport (i.e., not damaged). If you want to go to Canada by crossing the land border or visit Mexico on a cruise ship, you can do that with another form of acceptable ID.

My passport got wet. Is it still valid?

A severely water-damaged passport (i.e., when the pages are illegible or blurry) is likely to be considered invalid.

Is it ok to travel on a damaged passport but with all the pages?

It depends on the form of damage —even if all the pages are intact, border agents may consider the document too damaged for use. To get an idea regarding the state of your document,  read the “What is a damaged passport?” section of this article.

What is a mutilated passport?

A mutilated passport is a form of intentional damage that changes the physical appearance or composition of the document—this could be anything from ripped pages to removed stamps or visas.

Damaged passport & travel: recap

Passport damage does not automatically render your document useless as ordinary wear and tear (e.g., a small tear on one of the pages) most likely won’t hinder your international trip plans. 

If, however, your document has:

  • A significant tear on its pages or the cover
  • Illegible pages due to water damage
  • Loose binding
  • Or RFID chip damage

You’ll need to replace your damaged document by submitting a new passport application. 

Need a new passport? Start by getting a government-compliant picture with our Passport Photo Booth App for iOS or Passport Photo Maker App for Android. This way, you’ll be a step closer to getting your brand new and damage-free passport!

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