I chanced on an article today, featuring a guy who likes to draw artwork into passports. The article claims that the passports still work without an issue.

Now I am pretty sure my passport says something like 'no manual annotations can be made without rendering it invalid', so I am a little sceptical about that article.

Has anyone experience on how drawing into one's passport effects its validity and how much that is enforced?

  • I am almost sure this is not a good question as authoritative answers don't exist. Perhaps you can doodle enough that some officer in a backwater country will use it as a pretext to give you a hard time in hope of a bribe... but no rules. – chx Feb 18 '15 at 2:08
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    The wording in my passport (US, issued 2012) is "This passport must not be altered or mutilated in any way. Alteration could make the passport invalid, and if willful, may subject you to prosecution (Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1543). Only authorized officials of the United States or of foreign countries may place stamps or make notations or additions in this passport." – Nate Eldredge Feb 18 '15 at 4:55
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    A passport is an official document. It's like saying, hey, if I doodle on my birth certificate, marriage certificate is that okay? Think of the consequences of doodling on your passport - the possibility your passport is invalidated, and the fees + hassle of applying for another one, or, the possibility of being denied entry, detained, questioned, etc at a border crossing. Some things shouldn't be doodled on. – Burhan Khalid Dec 18 '18 at 7:33

Most countries prohibit "defacing" passports, and most countries will refuse entry if the passport is "damaged". Obviously there's a wide grey area between an accidental scribble and an unacceptably defaced/damaged passport, and it's largely up to the immigration officer to decide where to draw the line (ba-dum tssh).

The usual red lines (har!) are:

  1. making any changes to the photo page,
  2. altering visa stamps, and
  3. removing anything (pages, parts of pages, stickers, etc).

The artist in your article is obviously skirting as close to the line as possible, and arguably the theatrical moustache he's added to his own photo has crossed over it, but he's taking care to ensure all visa stamps remain legible.

At the end of the day, though, it's a question of risk and reward. The only reward is personal satisfaction; the risk, though, is the considerable cost and hassle of being denied entry. Which is why most of us keep our passports undecorated.

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    The airline will refuse to transport you if they believe the passport is defaced in a way that will not be accepted by the destination country. Therefore, you have to satisfy the check-in agent as well. – user71659 Dec 17 '18 at 23:41

protected by phoog Dec 18 '18 at 3:21

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