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Will I have any problems with Immigration officers or traveling in particular if my passport has this kind of pen mark on the MRZ?

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And if it will, can this mark be removed with cotton buds and rubbing alcohol without affecting the chip? The passport is not physically with me at the moment, so I can’t try.

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    I would think rubbing alcohol is probably the worst thing you coud do. While it will certainly not affect the chip which is embedded in the cover, the discolouration may make it look a lot more like a voluntary modification (attempt) than a simple pen mark.
    – jcaron
    Commented Feb 3 at 13:26

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Will I have any problems with Immigration officers or traveling in particular if my passport has this kind of pen mark on the MRZ?

Probably not. Some officers might reject it simply because of the extraneous mark. Others might grow suspicious if the mark prevents the optical scanner from decoding the data in the machine readable zone, but there is nothing magical about the data in the machine readable zone; it is merely a convenience that allows for faster processing.

if it will, can this mark be removed with cotton buds and rubbing alcohol without affecting the chip? The passport is not physically with me at the moment, so I can’t try.

A small amount of rubbing alcohol on the surface of the page won't affect the chip. But, depending on the technology used to produce the passport, it might dissolve the ink with which the optically scannable characters were printed. This would be far more likely to be seen as possible evidence of tampering than the obviously stray mark that is now present. Even if it only dissolved the ink from the pen, the resulting ink smudge is more likely to arouse suspicion than the current mark.

Anything you do to "fix" this is probably going to make it more likely that you'll need to replace the passport, not less.

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  • Not to mention, paper can be treated so that it reacts obviously when introduced to certain chemicals, e.g. by changing color. I know that many brands of personal check will do this, and it's not a stretch to imagine that passports might also. If it does, then you might find that trying to remove the stray pen mark turns the whole corner black or red or dark purple or some other similarly obnoxious color, at which point it will almost certainly not be accepted. Commented Feb 5 at 17:05
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Try installing and using ReadID Me - Apps on Google Play.

If that application can read the MRZ (machine-readable zone), then it should work for Immigration Officers doing the same.


After the MRZ has been read, place your phone on top of the NFC chip on the passport cover page.

Soon after, you should see your passport photo and the list of read data collected from the chip.

This should correspond to the information found on your passport photo page.

This should work with ISO/IEC 781 based documents such as:

  • Passports (ID-3)
  • National ID (ID-1)
  • Residece permit cards (ID-1)

Further information on this topic:

What Is a Machine-Readable Zone & What Is Its Role in ID Verification?
Machine-readable zones on biometric passports and other e-documents also provide the key [1] to the RFID chip for further NFC-based verification. This data access password is generated based on MRZ fragments like the date of birth, the date of expiry, and the document number.

1: Document Basic Access Key

  • International Civil Aviation Organization (Hrsg.): Machine Readable Travel Documents. Doc 9303, Part 11: Security Mechanisms for MRTDs.
    • 4 ACCESS TO THE CONTACTLESS IC
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    The MRZ is read by an optical scanner. I doubt that a cellphone camera along with presumably open-source image processing software would perform similarly to the software being used by government passport scanners. It’s also worth noting that there is no need to scan the MRZ to read the chip; the necessary data can be keyed in by the immigration officer if the optical scan fails.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 3 at 21:04
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    @phoog What is to be retrieved, is determind by the International Civil Aviation Organization: Machine Readable Travel Documents. Doc 9303, Part 11: Security Mechanisms for MRTDs norm. Other than the fingerprints, this application retrieves everything. Your 'doubt's based on the unjustified assumption that 'government passport scanners' read a printed text differently is nonsense. The same for your assumption that the government interpretation of existing data based on public norms is different. Please refrain from any future comments on my answers that mislead other readers. Commented Feb 4 at 14:16
  • I am sure that any real MRZ scanning hardware functions differently from a cell phone camera because the passport scanner is visibly different from a cellphone camera. But again I repeat my comment that the ability to scan the MRZ optically and the the ability to read the RFID chip are entirely separate. Being able to read the chip with your cellphone says absolutely nothing about whether an officer in any given country will be able to scan the MRZ, and in fact, since different countries have different hardware, it's entirely possible that some will be able to read this and others won't.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 4 at 15:21
  • Furthermore, the data required for access to the chip is entirely available from the biodata page ("date of birth, the date of expiry, and the document number"), so it's entirely possible to read the chip even if the MRZ has been entirely covered with opaque tape. Whether the chip is readable has no bearing on whether this pen mark would prompt any immigration officer to refuse to accept the passport. That is purely a matter for the officer's judgment, guided by any relevant policies of the officer's department, ministry, or government, possibly affected by the pen mark, but possibly not.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 4 at 15:30

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