You would be amazed at the stories we hear at Swift regarding damaged passports. We have heard everything from putting a passport through the washing machine (most common), dog chewing incidents, kids coloring on them, and much more! Damage happens, and Swift is here to replace that damaged passport when you need us. There are 2 ways to replace a damaged passport, and sometimes it isn’t easy figuring out which option/set of forms you need to use because the degree of damage is relative. Read on to educate yourself on your options, and the pros and cons of each so that you can determine the best way to replace your passport. Keep in mind that regardless of which option you choose, the US Passport Agency frequently keeps your damaged passport, as it is considered damaged government property.
Option 1: Renew your damaged passport
If your passport has slightly more than normal wear and tear, but is otherwise in pretty good condition, renewing your passport using our Expedited Passport Renewal Instructions and including a damage statement form is probably the best way to go. Make sure to write a complete 4-6 sentence explanation explaining when, where, and how the damaged occurred.
PROS: The process is much simpler than option 2- you simply gather the paperwork together, place your order, and send the passport and application materials to Swift.
CONS: A real person at the Passport Agency is going to deem whether or not your passport is or isn’t too damaged to renew. The degree of damage is relative and it is impossible to say for sure if they will deem that it IS eligible for renewal. In our experience, small tears, writing on the passport, worn down covers, and even passports that have gone through the washing machine typically are successfully renewed in conjunction with the damage statement form. If the information page of the passport looks like it may have been tampered with, or the thick cover of the information page is peeled far back or removed, many times they will NOT renew the damaged passport. If the photo is missing or torn, it often is not accepted as a renewal. If the Passport Agency Representative deems it is too damaged to be eligible to be renewed, then you will have Damaged or Mutilated US Passport Replacementto apply for a new passport as described in option 2. This means you will need to submit ALL new paperwork and essentially start the process from scratch.
NOTE: If you choose this option, note that when you are completing the DS-82 application form, it will ask you if your passport is damaged. It is imperative that you select “NO,” otherwise the passport wizard will direct you to the incorrect form!
Option 2: Obtain a new passport
If your passport is totally destroyed, not readable, and in a mutilated state, then you should follow our New or First Time Passport Instructions. When you choose this option, you are applying for a passport in the same manner as a first time applicant would. This involves getting your paperwork “executed” by a passport acceptance agent at your local post office or country/city clerk PRIOR to shipping SWIFT your documents. Make sure to include your damaged passport in addition to another form of proof of citizenship (another old passport, original birth certificate, certified copy of your birth certificate, or naturalization papers). It isn’t a bad idea to also include a damage statement to cover all of your bases.
PROS: If you are unsure if your passport will be eligible for a renewal and don’t want to risk losing time or hassle of completing another set of paperwork, this is a good option as you will not be penalized for choosing this method.
CONS: It costs $25 to get your application materials executed, and you have to make a trip to a passport acceptance agent.
So to weigh the pros and cons, ask yourself if doing it the easy way (renewing with a damage statement) is worth the gamble of being told that you may have to start from scratch. If you have to start from scratch, and send in all new paperwork will you miss a trip? Most people with slightly damaged passports gamble, and win, meaning that the passport is renewed without any problems. It’s a calculated risk, so just weigh your options before deciding.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.