Quiz: Can your clients travel with a damaged passport?

damaged passport
By Linsey McNeill
28/04/2023
Home » Quiz: Can your clients travel with a damaged passport?

When your client comes through the door waving a damaged passport that’s been chewed by the dog/gone through the wash or covered in tea stains, how do you know if they’ll still be able to use it to travel?

Travel Gossip asked the Home Office to check a number of images of damaged passports to give readers an idea of what sort of damage would result in holidaymakers being turned away at the airport, but their press officer declined.

They also declined to give us a written explanation of what damage to a passport would render it unusable specifically for travel.

They would only say that you can’t travel with a passport if it shows ‘significant wear and tear’, which was not terribly helpful.

However, Travel Gossip is nothing if not persistent and so we tracked down an off-duty Border Guard, based at one of the big London airports, to go through photos of damaged passports and tell us which ones would likely be rejected by him or one of his colleagues.

We think you’ll be surprised by what he told us. More of this later.

In the meantime, the Home Office sent us a document that lists the sort of damage to old passports that might mean they can no longer be used as ID.

Damage includes:

  • when the personal details or observation page are unreadable
  • the laminate on the personal details page is peeling or lifting away
  • the security details are unreadable
  • pages are missing/loose
  • the front or back of the passport or the personal details page has been cut/torn
  • damage or discolouration to any part of the passport caused by things like water, ink, tears, rips or bite marks
  • the perforated passport numbers have been torn
  • personal details page is broken or cracked
  • where the chip or antenna shows through the endpaper on the back cover of a burgundy passport or the personal details page of a blue passport

Minor scratches on the personal details page are considered ‘normal wear and tear’, as is a bent personal details page, slight water damage to the edges of the pages and minor tears around the edges of the pages or the cover.

Normal wear and tear should be accepted, as long as the personal details page is readable, there is no obvious trace of amendments or tampering, the binding is intact and the laminate is secure.

However, the guidance above is for Passport Office staff assessing whether damaged passports can be accepted as ID for renewal purposes, not for travel.  The Home Office did not confirm that exactly the same guidance is used by immigration staff assessing passports at border checkpoints.

Just for fun: do you think these damaged passports can be used as ID?

To get further guidance, Travel Gossip asked our friendly Border Guard to assess the following photos of damaged passports to see if he and his colleagues would likely allow them. They had all been posted on social media by people asking if they could still travel.

See if you can guess which of these damaged passport photos they would likely accept, and which ones they would reject. Remember, this quiz is just for fun and is not official Home Office guidance. If in doubt, a holder of a damaged passport should get advice from the Passport Office.

The Border Guard told us that someone can usually travel with a damaged passport as long as a person’s identity and nationality are readable.

[tqb_quiz id='1423718']

Replacing a damaged passport

Should your clients need to replace a damaged passport, they need to be aware that current processing times could be as long as 10 weeks, although most people seem to be receiving their passports much quicker than that.

When passports are so badly damaged that they can’t be accepted as ID, the applicants will have to supply additional identification, which could delay the process.

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