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enter image description here On my passport's signature page there is now a blue ink spot, that appeared mysteriously (I keep it in a ziplock bag with my birth certificate, but also a few other documents. I have now seperated fresh documents written by pen as I believe that's the culprit). Since the US state department is vague about what constitutes damage, and I have read for example a small tear on a page can result in refused entry, should I be concerned about the current validity of my passport? Not only for entry but also for my general identification (like for notarization or opening a bank account. Where I live they only accept the actual passport for those things, not a photocopy)

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  • Generally pen spots can be removed with rubbing alcohol (ethanol), but I wouldn't risk doing that on my passport.
    – Trang Oul
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 9:49
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    I had a passport noted by NZ customs to be in need of retiring due to a rubbed seam. It was very obvious, to me, that it had not been tampered with. I was told that it was OK for China, where I was going at the time, but that the US would reject it. I understand that such decisions are made on the grounds of pedantic because-we-can positions of power, rather than realistic assessments of legitimate likelihood of threat. The user deeming something not "appearing that it had been made in an attempt to modify your passport, or any of it's content" may not match that of some authority. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 11:08
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    @TrangOul "Rubbing alcohol" is largely isopropanol/isopropyl alcohol rather than ethanol (so do not drink it). In any case, your passport is likely to be designed to react to any solvent, indicating it has been tampered with.
    – Henry
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 13:09
  • Is it the spot smaller than 1 mm close to your finger or the triangluar slightly darker strain close to the seams? both cases I would say no problem.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 15:19
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    I spent years travelling on a US passport (mostly to and between countries other than the US) with loads of stains like that (I keep my passport in my back pocket or dump it into a backpack, it's never in very good condition). Nobody ever batted an eye and it was never an issue. Anecdotal, of course, hence a comment and not an answer, but still.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 20:08

2 Answers 2

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No, it will not be a problem.

The only reason something even remotely like that would be a concern is if it appeared that it had been made in an attempt to modify your passport, or any of it's contents (including visas/stamps), in some way. Clearly that isn't the case here, so this will not cause you any issues.

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    I had a passport noted by NZ customs to be in need of retiring due to a rubbed seam. It was very obvious, to me, that it had not been tampered with. I was told that it was OK for China, where I was going at the time, but that the US would reject it. I understand that such decisions are mad on the grounds of pedantic because-we-can positions of power, rather than realistic assessments of legitimate likelihood of threat. The user deeming something not " appearing that it had been made in an attempt to modify your passport, or any of it's content" may not match that of some authority. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 11:07
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    One of my friends once got denied entry (to Indonesia I think), because the hard back of his passport got bent in his bag, so I would not be so sure! I assume it highly depends on the immigration officer and how much they want to harden your life.
    – kopaka
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 14:47
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    @kopaka the hard back of a passport may contain an RFID chip. The hard back bended can be as well a sign of someone delaminating it replacing/removing the RFID and then gluing it again.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 15:18
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    @phoog The comment was by a NZ customs officer as I was outgoing to China. They said that I should replace the passport as while it would be acceoted by China it would not be accpted y eg the US. The fact of who they were AND that they idetified differences between two different administrations was enough to persuade me to do what they suggested, on my return. Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 10:17
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    @RussellMcMahon: It would seem to me more likely that they had seen the passport of someone who had been turned away at the US border for what appeared to be similar wear, and concluded that the wear was the cause of the rejection, than that they were aware of any particular US policy on the matter. Given the relative costs of replacing a passport versus being turned away at the border, the NZ customs officer's recommendation may have been reasonable even if the actual risk would have been minuscule.
    – supercat
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 20:27
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That little dot on the left? I don't see how that could reasonably be called "damage" by anyone. Maybe you don't use your passport much, but I've had friends and family with some much more heavy marks, creases, and even short tears. I even know of a case where he ran out of space for the visa stamps, so they just stapled new pages into it, right through the old pages.

It's the ID page and official stamps that matter. If your picture is unidentifiable, they can't scan it clearly or even move it through the scanner, your signature is blotched out, etc; these are issues. It is an identifying document, not a work of art. The agent that sees it is evaluating his confidence in its legitimacy and your legal status based on that. He doesn't really care what it looks like as long as it does what it is supposed to do.

The US State Department - Bureau of Consular Affairs covers this exact issue. They give details that stress the data page and photo, the cover, and "injuries" like missing pages and water damage. They mention "significant tears", which presumably means small tears are ignored, except probably not for the cover and data page. They say:

  1. My passport has been damaged. Can I continue to use this passport?

If your passport has been significantly damaged, especially the book cover or the page displaying your personal data and photo, you will need to apply for a new passport. Damage that might require you to replace your passport includes water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries.

Normal "wear and tear" of a U.S. passport is expected and does not count as "damage." Normal wear includes the bend of a passport after being carried in your back pocket or fanning of the visa pages after extensive opening and closing.

That mark is very small and it is not on the data page. There is no reasonable interpretation of the text above to make that invalidate your passport. BUT, this maybe could have been worse. You are right to take measures to prevent future marks and damage.


It's relatively easy to find "denied entry" stories based on a "damaged passport", but among the first few I found that actually describe the damage, they all run afoul of the terms in the quote above:

  1. Data page was delaminating
  2. Visa pages ripped out
  3. Water damage "at the bottom of the pages" presumably all pages.
  4. Tears on the data page

Replacing your passport can be a hassle, and your example damage is so small. I don't just doubt there would be issues. I would expect there to be none.

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